Blog Posts by Sid Ventura

  • NLEX looms as D-League favorite again

    NLEX, shown here at the Aspirants Cup, will have a virtually intact line-up. (Photo by Sid Ventura)

    With a virtually intact lineup, it looks like the NLEX Road Warriors are favorites to bag their third consecutive D-League title when the 2011-12 Foundation Cup opens on Tuesday at the Arena in San Juan.

    Nine other teams, led by Cebuana Lhuillier, will be out to spoil the Road Warriors' title aspirations, but looking at all the rosters, it appears they all have their work cut out for them. NLEX lost only big man Ford Arao and replaced him with Ateneo swingman Kirk Long, who was granted a special exemption by the D-League top brass to be able to play.

    That means the Road Warriors, who easily won the first two league titles, will still have a loaded lineup that features collegiate stars Ian Sangalang, Calvin Abueva, Dave Marcelo, Eman Monfort, Garvo Lanete, and Borgie Hermida, plus the athletic Fil-Am duo of Cliff Hodge and Chris Ellis. FEU stalwart RR Garcia is still a question mark as of now, and if he returns, NLEX will be even more formidable.

    While those championships were

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  • Azkals bow to N. Korea, 2-0

    Considering the quality of their opponent, the final score wasn't all that embarrassing.

    Up against a team that played in the last World Cup in South Africa, the Philippine Azkals relied on superb defense to keep the match scoreless for nearly an hour, but eventually North Korea's might proved too much to overcome, and the Koreans came away with a 2-0 win in the AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu, Nepal.

    The Koreans, defending champions in this event, stamped their class early on and constantly challenged the Philippine back four of Juan Guirado, Jason Sabio, Ray Jonsson and Carlie De Murga with crisp passing and good possession ball, but were unable to break through in the first half.

    They had an excellent chance, though, in the 17th minute when they were rewarded a penalty kick after a Philippine foul inside the box. Pak Song-Chol found the back of the net, sending Neil Etheridge the wrong way, but the referee ordered a retake due to encroachment. This time, Etheridge guessed right and

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  • End of the road for Bates?

    It felt pretty sad to hear the news that the AirAsia Philippine Patriots, one of two Philippine teams currently competing in the ASEAN Basketball League, has terminated the services of legendary PBA import Billy Ray Bates as their skills coach. Not really surprising, but sad nonetheless.

    In a statement, Patriots manager Erick Arejola said they had no choice but to give Bates the pink slip due to "repeated misconduct and acts detrimental to the team and to the league."

    Bates blew into town in October last year to attend his PBA Hall of Fame induction ceremony. It was his first visit to the country since last suiting up as an import in 1988. That last tour of duty, with Ginebra, didn't end well; he was out of shape and cut after four games. Sadly, it looks like this last stint of his will end in similar infamy.

    I guess many local basketball fans, especially those of us who are old enough to have watched Bates utterly dominate the PBA in 1983, were kind of hoping this would work out,

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  • Bolts post crucial win over Kings

    Earl Barron blocks Jackson Vroman's shot. (Photo courtesy of the PBA)

    The Meralco Bolts finally found the chemistry they had been searching for, and just in time, too.

    With import Earl Barron and key players Macmac Cardona and Sol Mercado all waxing hot at the same time, the Bolts weathered a late charge by the Barangay Ginebra Kings to fashion out a crucial 89-80 victory in PBA Commissioner's Cup action.

    The win allowed Meralco to snap a two-game skid while also keeping the team in the mix for a quarterfinal berth with a 2-4 record. A loss would have put the Bolts at a precarious 1-5 with only three games left. The bottom four teams will get the boot in this conference.

    "I was really hoping with more games played we'll find the right chemistry and cohesion that we wanted," Bolts coach Ryan Gregorio said. "With our win-loss mark we can't be complacent."

    Barron was red-hot in the third period, when he hit 16 of his game-high 27 points to help the Bolts erect an 18-point spread. Cardona and Mercado ably backed him up with 25 and 17, respectively, as the

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  • Bigger, better nat’l U-23 tournament slated

    PFF president Nonong Araneta and SPH president Satoshi Uchida shake hands. (Photo by Sid Ventura)

    Nearly a year to the day that the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) and Suzuki Philippines launched the first-ever under-23 national tournament last year in Los Banos, Laguna, the two entities are partnering once again for a bigger and better 2012 edition aimed at sustaining the growth of football and discovering future Azkals.

    The 2012 PFF Suzuki Under-23 National Cup gets going on March 18 in Dumaguete City, with all 33 football associations under the PFF participating. But unlike last year's inaugural edition, which was launched on March 30 and ran for only three months, this year's edition will feature a longer format, with the qualifying stage offering more matches for each team and the national finals featuring the top ten teams to be held next year.

    The longer format and earlier kick-off is in line with the PFF's goal of preparing early for the 2013 Southeast Asian Games to be held in Myanmar and avoiding a repeat of the disastrous 2011 SEAG campaign which saw the Philippine

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  • Santos, Fazekas spark a rejuvenated Petron

    Arwind Santos had a career-high 34 last Sunday. (Photo courtesy of the PBA)

    A couple of weeks ago, I wrote how the Petron Blaze Boosters were in a bit of a funk, losing their first two games in the Commissioner's Cup to extend to five a losing streak that started back in the Philippine Cup semifinals, where they blew a 3-1 series lead.

    Since then, Coach Ato Agustin has made some adjustments and tweaked his rotation, and the result is a three-game winning streak for the Blaze Boosters that has put them back in the mix of things.

    Petron started righting the ship last February 19 with an 84-77 win over sister team B-Meg as import Nick Fazekas, his job probably on the line, led five players in double digits with 23 points to go along with 16 rebounds. Agustin's biggest adjustment was sliding Arwind Santos back to the power forward spot, and the high-leaping forward finally got untracked with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

    Ten days later, Fazekas put to rest any talk about him being replaced as he came up with a monster double-double of 45 points and 22 rebounds in a

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  • Vroman debuts, but Caguioa steals the show

    Who is that masked man? Jackson Vroman with a slam. (Photo courtesy of the PBA)

    Everyone was waiting to see what fancied import Jackson Vroman could do, but it was the resident superstar who had the hot hand for Barangay Ginebra as the Kings repulsed the Powerade Tigers, 105-96, in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo.

    Coming in to replace Chris Alexander, Vroman had a pretty good PBA debut of 19 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in 35 minutes as he displayed his athleticism and court smarts, although he was terrible from the free throw line, hitting only 5-for 14.

    But when it came to making the clutch plays, the Kings called on Mark Caguioa to deliver the goods, and the 11-year veteran didn't disappoint, pouring in a game-high 31 points to lead Barangay Ginebra to the win and a 3-1 record.

    "The Fast and the Furious are still here," Caguioa said after the game, referring to his backcourt partnership with Jay-jay Helterbrand, and possibly also taking a dig at Powerade's celebrated Big Three wingmen, who have hogged the limelight for

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  • Mapua standout shines in HS all-star game

    Jason Ligad of St. Jude prepares to tak a free throw while Ralph Napa of NU looks on.

    Unheralded Ariel Basas, Jr. stole the thunder from his more illustrious teammates and opponents in the first-ever SEAOIL High School All-Star Showcase at the Ynares Center in Pasig, besting 29 other junior standouts and bagging the Most Valuable Player award with a good all-round performance.

    A two-sport athlete for Malayan High School (Mapua's junior team in the NCAA), Basas scattered 24 points to lead the All-Star White team to an 87-81 win over the star-studded All-Star Blue team in this inaugural gathering of the country's top high school seniors.

    Basas, a six-foot swingman who won a bronze medal in the shot put competition of the NCAA's junior track and field event held just last week, also added seven rebounds as he boosted his stock significantly in front of an audience that included coaches from several UAAP and NCAA college teams.

    The White Team led by 10 at the half, 47-37, before the Blue team, behind Xavier star Jeron Teng and LSGH's shifty point guard Thomas Torres,

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  • Azkals off to Nepal for Challenge Cup

    Neil Etheridge is doubtful for the Challenge Cup

    With the last of their tune-up matches behind them, the Philippine Azkals fly to Kathmandu, Nepal today for the AFC Challenge Cup where they will face a tough bracket without striker Denis Wolf and possibly main keeper Neil Etheridge.

    Wolf, who scored the Philippines' lone goal in the 1-1 draw with Malaysia last Wednesday, is having some passport issues while Etheridge, whose fine goalkeeping prevented Malaysia from scoring at least three times in the second half, still needs to get clearance from his English Premier League Team Fulham.

    Losing Wolf and possibly Etheridge are serious blows to the Azkals' campaign, which already faces an uphill climb after the country found itself bracketed with the last three champions of the Challenge Cup: North Korea (FIFA rank of 106), India (154) and Tajikistan (140). The Philippines is currently ranked 156th.

    Etheridge is hoping the manager of Fulham will allow him to join the team.

    "I'm not sure," he said when asked shortly after the Malaysia

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  • HS all-star game slated for this Sunday

    Front row: Alex Compton, Eric Altamirano, Sonny Barrios. Back row: Kevin Baytan, Jay Alejandro, Thomas Torres, G-boy Babilonia, Jeron Teng

    For the first time ever, the best basketball-playing high school seniors from all over the country will get together in an all-star game.

    Dubbed the SEAOIL High School All-Star Showcase, the game will take place on Sunday, March 4 at 11AM at the Ynares Center in Pasig and will feature 30 of the best high school ballers divided into two teams of 15 each.

    The game is a project of the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC), which is jointly run by National University coach Eric Altamirano and Powerade Tigers assistant coach Alex Compton. It's the culmination of a long process of selection that saw around 70 young players strutting their stuff in front of a jury of great basketball minds that included, aside from Altamirano and Compton, San Beda coaching legend Ato Badolato and under-16 national coach Olsen Racela.

    Badolato, the head of selection committee, made sure that provincial players were well-represented, seeding six players from key cities outside Metro Manila into the

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