Pinoy eSports athletes good for four to five gold medals in SEA Games, says eSNAP sec gen

For the first time in the history of the Southeast Asian Games, eSports will be included as a medal event.

It’s an opportunity the Philippines has been waiting for as our eSports bets, culled from millions of competitors that competed in various competitions, including The Nationals, will now have a golden opportunity to showcase their talent and grab the spotlight in the country’s hosting of the biennial meet.

The eSports National Association of the Philippines (eSNAP) wasted no time and assembled the best of the best to represent the Philippine SIBOL team to the SEA Games and secretary general Ren Vitug has every reason to feel upbeat of the Filipinos’ chances in the competitions.

“The reason why we have eSports in the SEA Games, it’s because we have a very good chance,” Vitug told FOX Sports Philippines.

Vitug won’t be surprised if our eSports teams collect four to five gold medals in the multi-sport event slated from November 30 to December 11.

“I’m targeting four to five gold medals. For a first time competitor in SEA Games, we’re that confident. First time in SEA Games, but players have been competing in the world level for the longest time,” added Vitug.

Vitug listed his bets in various titles like StarCraft, Dota 2, Tekken 7, and Hearthstone as potential gold medal winners.

“I would say for the gold, Dota 2, Star Craft, Tekken and Hearthstone. Our StarCraft player, Caviar ‘EnDerr’ Acampado, is a potential gold medal winner,” added Vitug, also the commissioner of The Nationals, the first national tournament for eSports.

But Vitug also cited several regional rivals considered as crack squads in different competitions.

“In Mobile Legends, we think, the strongest team is Indonesia, so instead of going with one full team, we decided to pool all-star teams. ML is challenged for the gold while AoV is hard. We’re looking for a bronze for AoV, just because the world champion is Vietnam,” added Vitug.

Even months before the SEA Games, Vitug and the SIBOL team have already identified their roles and the kind of teams they’ll be putting in to make sure that the country has competitive squads.

“We have three team games right now – Arena of Valor (AoV), Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, and Dota 2. So we give liberty to the coaches and the managers to build their own team, similar to how Gilas is being put up,” he said.

“There are different approaches in the team. For Dota 2 and AoV, which have solid teams, we opted to have a full team together para mayroon nang chemistry. But we have a different approach for Mobile Legends. Kasi it’s a game that we see ourselves na medyo challenged tayo for the gold medal,” added Vitug.

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First in SEA Games history | Philippines to stage opening ceremony in an indoor stadium

Unfazed by the challenges they’ve been encountering all along and the tons of pressure resting on their shoulders days leading to the country’s hosting of the Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee has remained steadfast and confident it could deliver the best staging of the biennial meet.

Instead, PHISGOC chief operating officer Tats Suzara is looking forward on the things they could accomplish, including the historic opening ceremonies which will be held in an indoor stadium for the first time in SEA Games history.

“This is the first time that the opening ceremony of the SEA Games will be held in an indoor stadium. Normally, even in the Olympics or the Asian Games, it is usually at the athletics stadium. It’s the first time that the SEA Games will be held indoors at the Philippine Arena. This is good because when it rains, we’re covered,” Suzara told mediamen during the launching of the Sama-Sama Sa SEA Games held at the Raffles Hotel in Makati.

This means that there were will be no fireworks to be displayed as this won’t be ideal in an indoor stadium. So as the lighting of the cauldron.

The organizers came up with a better alternative of staging these significant happenings simultaneously on separate venues.

“The question that will be asked there, ‘bakit walang fireworks’? We’re doing everything digital. But simultaneously we’re doing cauldron in New Clark City live. So dalawa yan. The highlight of the lighting of the cauldron will be live. We will have spectators, public viewing at the New Clark City with the LGUs there. It will be a very memorable opening ceremony,” added Suzara.

According to Suzara, the opening ceremony which will be held at the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena, is patterned after the Super Bowl Half Time Show where big entertainers will spice up the show.

“The program, however, is a secret. There were five companies which bid for this production and we awarded it to the company who did the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics and for the Asian Games last year in Jakarta. It will be a very memorable opening ceremony,” added Suzara.

Despite allegations of overpricing in budget allocations for the hosting of the Games, Suzara and his group have remained committed they could get the job done.

With the government throwing its full support, there’s simply no turning back as they look forward to the milestones the country is about to accomplish.

“Two years ago, when PHISGOC chairperson, Honorable Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano pushed me to help him for the hosting of the SEA Games. He was still serving as Secretary of the Foreign Affairs at that time. But he already shared his SEA Games master plan. The sportsman in him had a vision of bringing the athletes to greater glory by hosting the SEA Games, but it’s more than just that,” said Suzara.

Suzara said PHISGOC made sure this year’s event will be the biggest SEA Games event ever.

“Despite the challenges, PHISGOC has remained steadfast in our objective to host the most remarkable SEA Games in history — 56 sports, 513 events. The first time in the SEA Games. We want this to become the biggest. We also want it to be the best hosted as we’ve seen the full support of the Philippine government with His Excellency President Rodrigo Duterte continuing with his build, build, build program,” added Suzara.

President Duterte, according to Suzara, was even determined on developing world-class facilities Philippine athletes and other SEA Games participants could enjoy.

“We now have an athletics stadium that is considered world class and certified as Class 1 facility. We now have an aquatics center classified by FINA, as Class 1 also. We would like to invite you to come and see our Athletes’ Village. It’s the first Athletes’ Village in the history of the Philippines. The Athletes’ Village, will have a dinning hall simulation and we will test the food there. Around 2,000 athletes will be catered,” said Suzara.

Hosting a multi-sporting event such as the SEA Games, has never been easy and Suzara could only share his group’s struggles along the way.

“All the pains and the hard work of PHISGOC is at my back, but we have to show that we can host this biggest SEA Games ever. Hindi mo maiwasan siyempre, may mga negative pa rin, but we just ignored it. Because there’s no truth about it. We have to move forward. You have to imagine, we have 9,000 volunteers from Clark, Subic, Metro Manila, Tagaytay and Calatagan. It’s not so easy,” said Suzara.

“I’ll just give you an example. Polo is a huge sport, but is the most expensive sport in the SEA Games. The government is not spending for the horses. The Princess of Brunei brought 50 horses. Mikee Romero and Iñigo Zobel are also lending their horses to the foreign delegates and this will start on Sunday. They don’t expect anything.”

Like the other multi-sporting events, logistics have become more challenging for the organizers.

“Logistics have been a nightmare. Hindi lang naman dito. Even in the Olympic Games, when I was in Rio Olympics, our hotel is two hours from the competition venue. People walked in the opening ceremonies because no cars and buses were allowed. So, you could imagine how 56 sports from different venues,” said Suzara.

“But we will do this. With all your help, all your support. Tomorrow, baka tapos na SEA Games, yun ang sinasabi ko sa staff ko. You wake up tomorrow and the SEA Games is done and you will appreciate all the hard work. I’d like to thank the President who give this push to have our new stadium which is considered as world class.”


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SEA Games: Broadcaster TV5/Cignal TV commits more comprehensive coverage for Filipinos everywhere

How comprehensive is the coverage of the Southeast Asian Games to be hosted by the Philippines for the first time in 14 years?

Jane Basas, president and chief executive officer of TV5 and Cignal TV, said they are making the games available on different platforms, plus three new dedicated sports channels which they put up for the biennial meet alone, providing everyone an influx of action, highlights, actual competitions and up to date developments of what’s happening in the SEA Games.

“This is a collaborative effort of TV5 and Cignal TV as one of the official broadcasters of the Southeast Asian Games. Under this umbrella campaign, our hope is to bring together Filipinos – locally and abroad – to rally behind our athletes as they all experience the games live thru our various platforms, our free to air, pay TV and digital,” said Ms. Basas.

“As the official broadcasters, our goal is to provide the most comprehensive, up-to-date and in-depth programming and airing of this significant event and that includes giving the spotlight to as many sport events as possible and bringing the action to sports fans here and abroad. Come November 30, TV5 and Cignal TV will make it possible for everyone to watch the SEA Games live on TV and online.”

Medal-rich sports like basketball, boxing and billiards will be shown on TV5 while 5-Plus will be the dedicated go-to-destination of esports enthusiasts.

“This year’s SEA Games will be the largest in history with 56 sporting events and esports debuting as an official medal event. This is a huge step, legitimizing video gaming as a true competitive sport,” added Ms. Basas.

Games to be shown are scattered on different platforms.

“For free to air, we have TV5, featuring basketball, boxing, billiards and badminton and 5-Plus for esports and other fight sports competitions such as taekwondo, karatedo, wushu, and weightlifting. For pay TV, there’s One Sports on Cignal TV airing the games on high definition plus three new channels which we will be putting up for this event,” said Ms. Basas.

But there’s more, as three new channels were created just for the SEA Games alone.

“The first channel will be called The SEA Games Channel which will deliver round-the-clock coverage of international sports. This will be the channel that we will actually syndicate overseas. The second channel is called Team Pilipinas Channel, which will highlight the best moments of our Filipino athletes and the third will be the SEA Games news channel which will provide access to daily medal tallies, news and updates,” said Ms. Basas. “All channels are all offered on both SD and HD and best to experience sports on TV on high definition.”

“For digital, we have, of course, the Cignal Pay app, the SEA Games-dedicated Youtube Channel and Facebook Live that will be available 24/7. Obviously, we would like the games more available to as many platforms because we want to reach as many Filipinos not just here in the Philippines, but globally as well.”

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Bacoor, Caloocan carve out similar hard-fought wins as Biñan escapes Zamboanga

Gab Banal played true to form and Mark Montuano sealed the Bacoor City Strikers’ victory with split charities in the last 16 seconds as they outlasted the Valenzuela Classic, 78-74, in the MPBL Lakan Season Tuesday at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan, Laguna.

Banal, the reigning MVP, finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists and delivered an important lay-up with 51 seconds left to push Bacoor’s lead to 77-71.

After Val Acuña hit a trey to put the Classic back in the thick of the fight, Montuano came back by splitting his charities for the final tally.

Bacoor improved its win-loss record to 18-5 and firmed up their hold of the solo second spot in the competitive southern division of this tournament put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.

Caloocan nipped Navotas, 97-96, as Paul Sanga showed nerves of steel down the stretch.

Fouled by Jong Bondoc in the last 17 seconds while attempting for a trey, Paul Sanga had to earn the points from the foul line.

The ex-pro was able to stay composed and hit all three shots to give the Supremos the lead and the final tally.

The Supremos did force the Clutch to a 24-second violation, but Caloocan turned the ball over off an inbound play. Luckily, Osama Abdurasad, who stole the ball, couldn’t complete his heroic act as he missed the potential game-winning basket as time expired.

In the main game, host team Biñan City escaped Zamboanga-Family’s Brand Sardines, 74-72.

Allan Mangahas drilled in a jumper in the last two seconds, towing the Heroes to a tense victory against a team regarded as a powerhouse squad.

It was the third straight victory for the Heroes, who improved their win-loss record to 9-14.



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MPBL holiday season matches scheduled in Canada as Zamboanga, San Juan, Imus invited to play

Dennis Rodman on matchmaking Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un

The Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League is spreading its wings and going to fly again — this time in Canada.

Holiday seasons in Canada will be the peg of the MPBL Lakan Season’s three-game schedule in Calgary and Edmonton. The three game-series will be held from December 25 to 29 based on the memo sent to the following teams invited to play in the country as the second largest in the world based on land area.

The teams invited to play are playoff contender Zamboanga-Family’s Brand Sardines, reigning champion San Juan Knights and the Gerald Anderson-led Imus Bandera. They will play in Calgary and Edmonton.

Zamboanga, owned by Universal Canning Inc., will have to play two games against San Juan and Imus.

This was announced by league founder and CEO Senator Manny Pacquiao during halftime of the Makati Super Crunch-Muntinlupa Cagers tussle on Monday (November 18) at Makati Coliseum.

The eight-division world champion, MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes and deputy commissioner Zaldy Realubit signed the memorandum of agreement with the event organizers on Friday.

Due to the enormity of the undertaking, a first for local cage leagues, WYZMYND Events Production Inc., HKJ Productions and Witmichel Corporation are pooling their resources to guarantee its success.

Pacquiao will also be bringing along some stalwarts of the MPBL of his choice to play in exhibition games against local selections. Duremdes and MPBL Operations Head Emmer Oreta will be part of Pacquiao’s All-Stars.

The schedule isn’t final yet as there are plans to hold another exhibition game in Vancouver, which will move the return flight to December 30.

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Woody Co takes over from Goldwyn Monteverde as Batangas City coach

Following the untimely passing of its patron, Bong Tan, the Batangas City Athletics made some bold changes in the line up, tapping the right man at the wheel for its upcoming MPBL playoff drive.

Goldwyn Monteverde, head coach of the Athletics, stepped down from his post to concentrate on National University’s junior squad and was replaced by former Batangas City assistant coach Woody Co.

This latest development was confirmed by team executive Jean Alabanza in an online interview with FOX Sports Philippines.

“Woody Co will be the coach while Mac Tan will be the assistant team manager,” wrote Alabanza.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Co, who left the Athletics camp prior to the start of the season when he was recruited by the Bataan Risers to become a team executive.

The Risers, however, were financially pinched and Anthony Zubiri’s group had to be taken out of the team, leaving key members of the squad — from players, coaches, managers and utility staff — unpaid.

Co, a former stalwart of the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, found the perfect opportunity to return to the Athletics’ fold and he will assume a much bigger role this time.

Coaching the team isn’t new, after all, for Co, who served as a pinch-hitting mentor at the time of Tan’s absence as head coach.

“It is very challenging, given the winning tradition and situation now of Batangas City-Tanduay,” wrote Co. “But hey, who doesn’t love a good challenge?”

Co isn’t bound to make changes on the flow of things in Batangas City, but he wants to re-establish good team chemistry.

“More than changes, we are focusing more on team chemistry. I’ve players who play both sides of the floor. We need to maximize that and try to bring out the best in each of them,” added Co.


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Nostalgic night at the Makati Coliseum as Super Crunch emerge victorious in first hosted MPBL game

Dennis Rodman on matchmaking Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un

FOR more than a year, the Makati Super Crunch played at their surrogate home court — the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City — each time they hosted an MPBL game.

After a long wait, the Super Crunch finally got the opportunity of playing right in front of their local folks as the newly-refurbished Makati Coliseum staged an MPBL game for the first time in league history Tuesday.

As expected, it was like a nostalgic night for the Super Crunch, whose key members had their opportunities playing at this historic venue which served as the site of the Philippine Basketball League and the UAAP.

Head coach Cholo Villanueva, who played for two teams in the PBL, recalled the memories playing at the venue.

“I played for ICTSI-La Salle and also for Toyota Otis,” Villanueva told FOX Sports Philippines. “This is very nostalgic. I remember even the UAAP games were played here before. It’s a big improvement from the last time I saw it. It’s state-of-the-art now.”

Coming off an exhausting triple-overtime victory over a crack Zamboanga-Family’s Brand Sardines team, the Super Crunch played with the same energy against the Muntinlupa Cagers on their way to preserving an 81-68 victory Monday night.

For Villanueva, the home crowd which came out in full force clad in white brought in the added energy boost needed by the Super Crunch in notching their eighth straight win.

Makati remains as the hottest team in the MPBL Lakan Season and its latest win improved its standings to 18-3, securing the solo second spot of the northern division of this tournament put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.

“We felt the energy of the crowd. The Makatizens were all out and we used that energy to keep us fresh playing defense the whole game,” said Villanueva. “It’s a very big thing playing in your home floor. The Makatizens waited for so long, to cheer for us.”

“Our triple overtime game against Zamboanga was energy-zapping, it came all the way from Antipolo. But our energy tonight was still there because of our crowd and players coming off the bench. They also provided the energy and relentlessness on defense.”

Team owner Paolo Orbeta played college ball at College of St. Benilde, but he also experienced playing at the Makati Coliseum in the PBL.

“Rookie Year ko sa PBL noon, Welcoat. Ganito rin yung atmosphere, ganito rin yung crowd. Ang pagkakaiba lang, yung crowd talagang coming from Makati,” Orbeta said. “Iba yung chini-cheer ka ng mga tao, nagchi-cheer sila sa home team mo. Mas ibang feeling yun.”

Orbeta was amazed at how the Makatizens were engaged to the Super Crunch.

“Doon mo makikita gaano sila ka-engaged. Pumunta sila dito, nagsuot sila ng puti, all sorts of people, may mga naka-kotse, naka-motor, may nag-commute, may mga naglalakad lang. Hopefully, yung ganitong klaseng culture ng fan bases talagang maalagaan natin. Kasi first time na magkaroon ng Makati team sa MPBL,” added Orbeta.

MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes was impressed by the new look Makati Coliseum and believes that this venue set a standard among the playing fields in the fastest growing regional amateur basketball league.

“Ganito dapat eh. Ganito yung laki, ganito kaganda yung facilities. Ito yung ideal na home court dapat ng mga teams dito sa MPBL,” said Duremdes.

Photo from Makati Coliseum Facebook/Rayjohn Balasta


Fil-Indonesian Biboy Enguio misses opportunity playing against Gilas, PBA stars in SEA Games

Dennis Rodman on matchmaking Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un

For the past four years, Biboy Enguio has become one among those Filipino players given a chance to play for the national team.

Surprisingly, he’s not carrying the Philippines in major international tournaments, but the Indonesian men’s basketball team which placed second to the Pinoy cagers in the last two events of the Southeast Asian Games in 2015 in Singapore and 2017 in Malaysia.

Enguio, now playing for the Muntinlupa Cagers in the MPBL, a regional basketball league put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao, was looking forward to crack the Indonesia squad this year to be coached now by Rajko Toroman. He was hoping that he will be given a chance to play against the best players from the PBA who are representing the Philippine squad to this year’s Southeast Asian Games to be held in the country.

But as fate would have it, the six-foot, high-flying guard, was not able to join the Indonesian roster due to his continuous commitment with the Cagers in the MPBL this year.

“Sa ngayon hindi. Kasi late na rin yung pagsabi nila sa akin tsaka buo na sila. Hindi ko na maitutuloy yung plano. Dito pa naman yung event sa Pilipinas. Sayang rin, kasi iba yung feeling. Although weird na maglalaro ako sa Indonesia tapos kalaban mo Pilipinas, sa home court pa ng Pinas. Sayang opportunity playing against them. Kung nakasama ko sa roster ng Indonesia, pang-third time ko na sana lalaro. Nung two times na naglaro ako, nag-silver kami.”

In 2015, the Philippines sent an amateur-laden squad to the SEA Games in Singapore with Marcus Douthit serving as the only pro player seeing action for the Filipinos.

The Filipinos were pushed to the limit by Indonesia with Enguio, a Filipino-Indonesian, carrying the name Ebrahim Enguio, leading the charge for the Indonesians.

For many years, the Philippines has been sending the top amateur players, most of them coming from the collegiate ranks, to represent the country in the biennial meet, but following the creation of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), a professional basketball league, even officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas were convinced that the Philippines needs a different direction when it comes to sending players to the SEA Games. They’ve decided to ask help from the PBA when it comes to forming a team competing in the biennial meet.

Enguio, himself, was playing for an Indonesian club team CLS Knights Suribaya in the ABL and the continues participation of club teams from the ASEAN region had somehow raised the level of the game of countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

In 2017, young PBA players like Troy Rosario, Almond Vosotros, and Baser Amer had to reinforce the Philippine squad to the SEA Games in Malaysia and the Filipinos went on to win the gold medal against the Indonesian team backstopped by Enguio.

The Philippines has been lording SEA Games basketball men’s competition since 1991 and Enguio knows it too well.

“Ang laging sinasabi pagdating sa basketball sa SEA Games, malakas talaga yung Pinas. Tsaka iba yung level. Nakakapaglaro kasi yung Pilipinas sa FIBA World Cup eh. Kami, underdog talaga kami sa Indonesia. Habol na lang namin talaga maka-silver,” added Enguio.

Enguio was a star in the National Basketball League Indonesia, winning the Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year in 2014 and went on to play until the 2016 season for Aspac Jakarta. When he finished his career in the NBL, he returned to the country to play in the PBA D-League where he cracked the roster of the Tanduay Light Rhum Masters then transferred to Marinerong Pilipino the following year.

He went back to Indonesia to play for the Knights in the ABL, but returned to the country when the MPBL opened doors to those who were not given opportunity playing in the PBA.

“Kung magtutuluy-tuloy pa career ko sa MPBL, siguro baka dito na lang ako sa Pilipinas,” added Enguio.

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How Basileños immediately fell in love with MPBL rising star Allyn Bulanadi

LAMITAN, BASILAN — His name may ring a bell, but local folks from Basilan were immediately left in awe the moment Allyn “Air” Bulanadi took his flight at the Lamitan Gymnasium here over the weekend.

To see is to believe and that’s what exactly happened for the debuting college star.

Wiry and deadly when pulling up for jumpers, while possessing the length and size of a forward but has the speed of a guard, Bulanadi quickly made his presence felt in his first MPBL game with the Basilan Steel and came up with an explosive performance.

He knocked in 22 points on a steady 10-of-16 shooting from the field and steered the Jumbo Plastic-backed Steel to a 93-81 triumph over the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards in the MPBL Lakan Season.

Bulanadi, a Mythical Team selection in this season’s NCAA, didn’t have much difficulty playing in his first game in the fastest growing regional amateur basketball league put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.

Inside the court, Bulanadi is playing as if he has his own playground when breezing past his defenders. He took his shots with usual confidence as if Basilan is like an extension of his college team San Sebastian where he is the top gun. Energy-wise, he was so relentless that made him an instant attraction to the Basilenos.

At one stretch in the fourth when Bulanadi had already pumped in 10 of his total output, the crowd would applauded each time the 6-foot-2 swingman would handle the basketball, anticipating his every move.

“Maraming salamat, Basilan,” shouted Bulanadi while addressing the crowd after he was chosen as the Best Player of the Game as the crowd erupted in appreciation of their new found star. “Nagi-enjoy lang talaga ako sa loob and aggressive lang parati, Hindi ako nagri-relax, talagang pupukpok ako.

Bulanadi’s familiarity with Basilan’s system was also a plus factor as he had also played alongside some of the mainstays of the squad in the PBA D-League the previous conference.

“Yung mga Kuya ko sa D-League naging teammate ko na at naging coach ko na rin si Coach Jerson (Cabiltes), yung familiarity namin hindi problema,” Bulanadi told FOX Sports Philippines.

Co-team owner Hegem Furigay was one among those who became an instant believer of Bulanadi’s game.

“First game pa lang, breakout performance agad,” added Furigay. “It’s good for Basilan Steel and it’s good for the MPBL.”

Bulanadi assured all Basilan and MPBL fans that they could expect more from him.

“Marami pa, abangan niyo,” added Bulanadi.

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ONE BASILAN: Muslims, Christians unite to support Steel’s first MPBL home game of the season

LAMITAN, BASILAN — This happens rarely but on Saturday night all roads trooped to the Lamitan Gymnasium as Basileños, regardless of their religious beliefs, united as one.

The unity, the one deafening roar that filled the entire venue, were intended for one team — the Basilan Steel — which is playing its first home game of the MPBL Lakan Season.

“This goes to show that sports is indeed a unifying force as what we saw in this game,” MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes told FOX Sports Philippines. “Maski naman tuwing may laban rin si Senator Manny Pacquiao, our MPBL CEO, united rin talaga tayong mga Pilipino regardless of our religious beliefs.”

True enough, the Basileños came out in full force in this sold old double header.

Local folks — whether avid fans of the squad or people who are just curious to see the Jumbo Plastic-backed Steel playing at home, lined-up outside the venue even though they already knew that it was declared as sold out.

In the end, local organizers decided to control people who wanted to come inside the gymnasium.

Co-owners Julz Hataman and Hegem Furigay were happy with the turnout, especially after Senator Pacquiao, himself flew in on board a chopper to watch the first game in Basilan this season. He declared games will be back here in the previously known war-torn province that has become a sports hub and symbol of success in basketball as its local teams ruled the PBA D-League and Chooks-To-Go 3 x 3 event.

“Si Senator Manny na mismo may sabi na babalik ang MPBL dito,” said Hataman, also the Mayor of Sumisip. “Pero talagang nagkakaisa kami sa Basilan. It’s one way of building our camaraderie.”

Furigay, Councilor of Lamitan, added that basketball is one way of cleansing the old image of the province.

“It’s a start for us to change our image,” said Furigay. “Alam natin it will not happen overnight, pero one day at a time. Eventually, Basilan will be remembered for doing something great.”

Jax Chua, assistant general manager of the Steel, considered the hosting a success, but more than anything else, it was the unity being displayed by the Basilenos which made the event more significant.

“That’s beyond winning,” added Chua. “Magandang makita natin that Basilan is not divided by its culture. Ang Basilan kasi multi-cultural. It’s a Muslim-dominated province that also has Christians. This game proves that they can co-exist.”

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Air Bulanadi ready to take full flight on MPBL debut in Basilan’s first home game

After falling short of making it to the championship round, Allyn Bulanadi is now taking his full flight in the MPBL starting Saturday when he makes his debut for Basilan in the Steel’s first home game of the season.

Bulanadi and the rest of the Steel arrived as early as Thursday to take part in the basketball clinic with young players in the previously regarded war-torn province but is now slowly making its presence felt in the local basketball scene as champions in the PBA D-League and Chooks-To-Go 3 x 3 event.

For Bulanadi, the solid run in the NCAA while playing for the San Sebastian Stags had somehow toughened him up while preparing for the league where the big boys are competing.

“It’s my first game, so kailangan kong higitan yung expectations nila sa akin,” wrote Bulanadi in an online interview with FOX Sports Philippines. “Lalaruin ko ng 101-percent kasi nga first ko ito at masaya ito dahil first home game namin.”

Bulanadi will join an already stacked Basilan squad that has veteran players Jay Collado, Hesed Gabo, Jhaps Bautista, Chris Dumapig, ex-pros Anthony Bringas and Jonathan Uyloan and Gab Dagangon among others.

Bulanadi added that playing in the MPBL will be a good stepping stone in his ambition to move up to the PBA.

“Mas mahahasa ako rito para sa next level na lalaruan ko,” added Bulanadi. “Makakatulong ito sa akin.”

On Saturday, the Jumbo Plastic-backed Steel will face the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards in the main game at 9 p.m. Manila battles Imus in the other game at 7 p.m.

No excuses for Gilas cagebelles as team gets bludgeoned by NZ: ‘Our second five needs to do better’

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GILAS Pilipinas women’s basketball team suffered a stinging loss at the hands of home team New Zealand on opening day of the FIBA Women’s Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament.

New Zealand prevailed, 111-54, that saw the Philippines struggling and turning the ball over while having difficulty matching up with the bigger Kiwis.

The Filipinas committed 22 turnovers and were held down to just 31.2-percent shooting from the field (20-of-64). Off their total turnovers, our country’s cagebelles also gave up 36 points from our miscues. The Kiwis pounded their way more inside and used their size advantage to the hilt on their way to shooting a steady 54.1-percent clip (46-of-85).

Size has been a big advantage of New Zealand and it was obvious in the rebounding department as it lorded the boards, grabbing 61 rebounds compared to only 25 for Gilas. The Kiwis’ domination of the rebounding department also allowed the host squad to score 21 second-chance points. The Filipinas had virtually no chance, scoring only two.

New Zealand also played much better as a team, dishing out 35 assists, 24 more than Gilas women’s squad.

To the eyes of head coach Patrick Aquino, the Filipinas were simply outclassed.

“Everybody should step up, especially my second five. Our second five needs to do better,” wrote Gilas women’s coach Patrick Aquino in an online interview with FOX Sports Philippines.

The Filipinas were able to get decent games from Afril Bernardino, who led the way with 17 points while deadshot Janine Pontejos and Fil-Am Kelli Hayes each produced 10.

“We gave up a lot of errors and second-chance points,” added Aquino. “They are also bigger and we couldn’t easily adjust to the game. We made some good outburst in the third, but they simply outclassed us.”

The Philippines will be facing Korea next, a team that is coming off a big win over China

“Well we have to match up with them talent wise and compete to there level. I know it’s going to be hard, but that just where we start to be able to play against them. They are in high spirits after the win game against China, so we have to really play our hearts out to be able to sustain and stay in the game,” added Aquino.

The Philippines’ participation in the FIBA Women’s Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament was made possible by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, the country’s basketball governing body, headed by President Al Panlilio.

Bacoor, Caloocan post similar easy victories over MPBL rivals as Bulacan nips Pasay in 2 OTs

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REIGNING MVP Gab Banal returned to action and immediately made his presence felt to lead the Bacoor Strikers to a 76-59 manhandling of the Mindoro Tamaraws in the MPBL Lakan Season at the Bulacan Capitol Gymnasium.

Back in harness after coming off a bout with dengue, Banal reaffirmed his role as the Strikers’ top gun, drilling in 21 points and dishing out six assists to propel Bacoor to its second straight victory.

The win enabled the Strikers to keep a hold of the solo second spot with a 17-5 win-loss record in the southern division of this tournament out up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.

So aggressive were the Strikers, who scored 46 points from the paint, 30 more than what the Tamaraws had produced. Bacoor also grabbed 48 rebounds compared to only 37 for Mindoro, which lost for the third straight time and dropped to 8-15.

Bulacan survived Pasay, 100-98, in double overtime as Lester Alvarez played the hero’s role for the Kuyas, who kept a hold of the seventh spot and improved their record to 13-8.

Alvarez hit a buzzer-beating trey that sent the game to double overtime before JR Alabanza, Dennis Santos and Stephen Siruma took care of business from there on.

Caloocan dumped Valenzuela, 76-65, as the Supremos turned to Rene Pacquiao, who came away with a double-double showing and lead the squad to its second win in a row,

Pacquiao, a 6-foot-5 center, ended up with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while AJ Mandani and Paul Sanga also made key contributions for the Supremos.

Mandani added 16 markers while Sanga produced 14.

‘I Hate To Lose’ | Alab coach Jimmy Alapag determined to put up a more loaded team for coming ABL season

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THE stigma of last season’s disappointing campaign is still fresh in the mind of Alab Pilipinas coach Jimmy Alapag.

For someone who’s accustomed to winning championships, the owner of the PBA’s most number of three-point shots made is eager to erase that memory of an unsuccessful season.

“You guys should know me. I hate to lose. I still cannot forget what happened last season. We’ll prepare and hope to give ourselves another run for a championship,” Alapag told FOX Sports Philippines.

This season’s San Miguel Alab Pilipinas will have a totally different look as only Brandon Rosser and Lawrence Domingo were retained from last season’s squad, which was booted out of the race by the Eastern Long Lions in the quarterfinal round.

Some of the notable newcomers included in the team are Jason Brickman, who won a championship in the ABL in 2015 when he was playing for the Westports Malaysia Dragon, Jeremiah Gray and Jordan Heading.

Also joining the team are Khalif Wyatt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Temple University, former PBA player Aaron Aban, 6-foot-7 center Tzaddy Rangel from National University, former collegiate star Andrei Caracut from La Salle, three-time PBA champion Louie Vigil, G-League standout Nick King, and 6-foot-11 center Adrian Forbes among others.

But former Defensive Player of the Year Renaldo Balkman, the former PBA import, who won the ABL championship with Alab Pilipinas along with fellow import Justin Brownlee, will not be suiting up for the team this time as he has commitments in Puerto Rico.

The Alab Pilipinas cagers were able to make a good measure of themselves when they split their two tune up matches with Gilas Pilipinas and Alapag likes the progress of his team.

“From an effort standpoint, from this group not being together for very long, it’s just plain effort. We’re active defensively and we’re very unselfish on offense. Having 25 assists in one game, it’s very, very encouraging for me as a coach to see the guys play together,” Alapag said.

“That’s going to be a statement for us to be active defensively. We’re versatile with the guys having to play multiple positions. Offensively, it’s just being unselfish, not necessarily finding the good shot, but the best shot. We will continue to build the chemistry and camaraderie.”