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Leonard returns but Spurs stumble; James leads Cavs rout

Leonard returns but Spurs stumble; James leads Cavs rout

14/12/2017, Philippines, Multi Sports, The Manila Times, Article # 25164618

LOS ANGELES: Kawhi Leonard made his long-awaited return from injury but could not stop San Antonio from an upset defeat in Dallas on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) as LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a ninth straight win.

Leonard, who missed the first 27 games of the season due to a thigh muscle injury, made an impressive cameo in his 15 minutes on court, scoring 13 points and pulling down six rebounds.

But when Leonard exited as expected early in the third quarter soon after helping the Spurs into a 55-50 lead, the Mavericks came back into the contest to run out 95-89 winners at the American Airlines Center.

The defeat was a jolt for San Antonio, who fell to 19-9 for the season. The Mavs improved to 8-20, led by 17 points from Harrison Barnes.

In Cleveland meanwhile, the Cavaliers rained down a bombardment of three-pointers on the Atlanta Hawks to secure a 123-114 win.

Kawhi Leonard No.2 of the San Antonio Spurs takes a shot against Harrison Barnes No.40 of the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on Wednesday in Dallas, Texas. AFP PHOTO

Cleveland bagged a season-high 20 three-pointers during the game, with James scoring 25 points and tying a career-high 17 assists.

Kyle Korver had 19 points — including six three-pointers — while Kevin Love had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Jose Calderon had 14 points.

Happy to help
James was satisfied with his tally of assists as much as his points total.

“For me to assist my teammates making shots has always been an enjoyment of mine … my team-mates were excellent tonight,” James said.

“We’re in a good rhythm right now. We know what we want to run, we know where guys are going to be out on the floor, we kind of know how defenses have been playing us as of late and guys are moving and sharing the ball extremely well. When the ball is moving, energy is behind it and guys are in rhythm.”

The Cavaliers improved to 20-8 and have now won 15 of their last 16 games to keep the pressure on Eastern Conference pace-setters Boston.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said the Hawks had struggled to contain James’ passing threat.

“I think they do a lot of double-teaming and tilting with the bigs so that allows LeBron to just pick the guys apart,” Lue said.

‘Embarrassment’ for Van Gundy
Elsewhere Tuesday, Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy was left lamenting his team’s “embarrassing” performance after a seventh straight defeat in a 103-84 rout by the Denver Nuggets.

“I’ve coached around 850 regular season games and playoffs and that’s one of the worst ones I’ve ever had,” Van Gundy said.

“We didn’t do anything tonight. We didn’t compete. That’s on me as a coach. I’ve got to find the answers…that was an embarrassment tonight.”

After a solid start to the season the Pistons are now 14-13 in the Eastern Conference.

Wilson Chandler scored 18 points for the Nuggets while Mason Plumlee had 10 points and a season-high 13 rebounds.

At Madison Square Garden, Kristaps Porzingis scored 37 points and had 11 rebounds as the New York Knicks overcame the Los Angeles Lakers 113-109 in overtime.

Enes Kanter had 14 points and 11 rebounds for New York while Knicks rookie Frank Ntilikina added a career-high 13 points.

The Lakers scoring was led by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with 24 points while Lonzo Ball had 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

“You have to give them credit for making plays, but as a team you always look at what you can do better as a group, as an individual, and there is a lot tonight that we could have done better to give ourselves a better chance to win that game,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said following the loss.

The Knicks improved to 14-13 with the win. The Lakers, who are 10-16 for the season.

AFP

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A legacy down the drain

A legacy down the drain

14/12/2017, Philippines, Multi Sports, The Manila Times, Article # 25164619
CONRAD M. CARIÑO

CONRAD M. CARIÑO

Because I was too busy over the weekend, I failed to follow through live streaming over social media the supposed marquee fight between Vasil Lomachenko of Ukraine and Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba. Well, good thing I never devoted a single minute following the fight, because that would have been a total waste of time.

The Cuban counterpuncher and two-time Olympic gold medallist quit before the start of the seventh round, claiming an injured left hand, which resulted in the Ukrainian gaining a stoppage win. Ringside reporters said Lomachenko, also a two-time Olympic gold medallist, dominated his opponent, who was challenging the Ukrainian for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) super featherweight (126 pounds) championship.

Rigondeaux is the WBO and International Boxing Organization super bantamweight (118 pounds) world champion and World Boxing Association super world champion in the same weight. With two regular world titles and a “super” world title, many fight fans were expecting the Cuban to give the Ukrainian a stiff challenge, and both fighters entered the ring over the weekend with impressive records: Lomachenko boasting of 9-1 with 8 KOs and Rigondeaux 17-0 with 11 KOs.

But the fight almost turned into a borefest if it were not for Lomachenko’s efforts to up the fight’s tempo; Rigondeaux stuck to his usual style of waiting for his opponent to launch an attack so he can counter, and clinching instead of infighting. In the fifth and sixth rounds, Rigondeaux clinched Lomachenko more than a dozen times.

While Lomachenko landed only a few telling shots on the Cuban, it was obvious from the very first round that Rigondeaux absolutely had no answer against the fighting style of his Ukrainian opponent. And many regarded Rigondeaux as one of the most outstanding counter punchers and ring technicians today alongside Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Ward, who are both undefeated until now.

The Cuban quitting before the start of the seventh round because of a left hand injury will have a telling effect on his legacy, since most elite fighters do not quit because of injuries. Just take the case of Manny Pacquiao who fought full 12 rounds in his megafight against Mayweather, even if the Filipino claimed after the fight that he had a right shoulder injury.

Nonito Donaire Jr. even finished a few of his championship fights with a bloodied hand or two, but we never saw him quit.

So don’t blame Donaire, who lost to Rigondeaux in a title fight in April 2013, if he has very harsh words for the Cuban. The unwritten rule in elite championship fights is very simple: you just don’t quit even with an injury. Again, just take the case of compatriot Pacquiao.

Even Lomachenko said he would continue fighting if he was the one who had a hand injury. The Ukrainian added he defeated in November 2014 Thailand’s Suriya Tatakhum even if he injured his left hand. That fight was part of the Manny Pacquiao-Chris Algieri undercard, which was an opportunity for the Ukrainian to demonstrate his skills to the world.

“So it depends [on]you. If you wanna win, if you wanna fight, you’re willing to die in the ring,” Lomachenko told boxingscene.com.

Maybe Rigondeaux was no elite fighter from the start, as his resume will show he fought only one real elite opponent in Donaire. On the other hand, Lomachenko stamped his class after he beat via stoppage in the eighth round Jamaican knockout artist Nicholas Walters in November last year. Walters was 25-0-1 with 21 KOs when he fought Lomachenko. Among Walters’ stoppage victims was Donaire.

At this point, I feel very sorry for Rigondeaux as his showing against Lomachenko over the weekend exposed the weaknesses in his skills and mettle. If Rigondeaux was afraid of going down or stopped, then he doesn’t belong to the ranks of elite fighters who suffered stoppage losses but still went down fighting. And Donaire and Pacquiao are among those fighters.

I mean, just imagine if Pacquiao quit on his stool in the middle of his fight against Mayweather because of a shoulder injury, or Donaire just turned his back against Walters as he got pummelled badly by the Jamaican prior to the sixth round?

The great Roberto Duran quit in his second fight against Sugar Ray Leonard in November 1980 but claimed that he found it frustrating fighting against a “clown.” But one way or the other, fight fans gave Duran a second chance to redeem himself and the Panamanian boxing legend went on to register big wins against elite opponents and lost some, including crushing loss to Thomas Hearns in the second round in June 1984.

So will Rigondeaux be given another chance by boxing fans? Maybe, if he fights elite opponents and does not quit, even if he is losing a fight. Otherwise, his legacy will surely go down the drain.

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Engineers rally to beat Hunters in NCRAA hoops

Engineers rally to beat Hunters in NCRAA hoops

14/12/2017, Philippines, Multi Sports, The Manila Times, Article # 25164620

Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP) displayed a strong fourth quarter performance in front of its home fans as it pulled off a 60-49 comeback win over New Era University in the 25th National Capital Region Athletic Association (NCRAA) basketball tournament on Tuesday at the TIP Gym in Quezon City.

The Engineers erased a 13-point deficit then unleashed a furious rally in the payoff period en route to their first victory this season.

Down by as much as 12-25 prior to the break, Terrence Matignas, Jay Gadon and main gunner Jorey Napoles initiated an explosive 15-2 run to give the home squad a 51-43 lead with still three minutes remaining.

Matignas finished with 14 points, Gadon pumped in a double-double of 12 markers and 10 rebounds while Napoles chipped in seven points for the Engineers.

Jeff Comia’s game-high 19 points went down the drain as the visiting Hunters began their campaign with a loss.

Meanwhile, Olivarez College also notched its maiden victory as it routed Philippine School of Business Administration, 78-65.

The Sea Lions seized control early in the game en route to a massive 54-35 advantage in the third frame for their breakthrough win.

Archie Sunga fired 17 points to lead four other Olivarez players in double figures. Dwight Saguiguit scored 13 markers, Jeric Prado and Harold Sala added 11 apiece while Vinny Begaso had 10.

Michael Angelo came up with a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds while Onel Amansec contributed 14 markers but their efforts were not enough to save the Jaguars from losing their first match.

In the final game, Saint Francis of Assisi College clobbered De Ocampo Memorial College, 96-85.

The 16-team, two-group NCRAA will go on a holiday break and will resume on January 9 next year.

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Wesley finishes 5th in London Chess Classic

Wesley finishes 5th in London Chess Classic

14/12/2017, Philippines, Multi Sports, The Manila Times, Article # 25164621

Filipino Grandmaster (GM) Wesley So wound up fifth overall in the prestigious 2017 Grand Chess Tour – London Classic held at the Olympia Conference Center in London, England.

The 24-year old Cavite City pride scored five points on eight draws and one win in the nine-round tournament.

So split the point with GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France (first round), GM Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia (second round), GM Hikaru Nakamura of US (third round), GM Michael Adams of England (fourth round), world champion and top seed GM Magnus Carlsen of Norway (fifth round), GM Levon Aronian of Armenia (sixth round), GM Fabiano Caruana of US (seventh round) and GM Sergey Karjakin of Russia (eighth round).

He wrapped up his campaign with a victory over GM Wiswanathan Anand of India in the final round.

So was actually in three-way tie for third with Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave.

But when the tiebreak points were applied, So was relegated to the fifth spot while Carlsem took the No. 3 position followed by Vachier-Lagrave.

Caruana and Nepomniachtchi shared the first place with six points each.

After tiebreaks, Caruana grabbed the top honors while Nepomniachtchi settled for second.

Nakamura was sixth with 4.5 points followed by Aronian (four points), Karjakin (3.5 points), Anand (three points) and Adams (three points).

Caruana pocketed the $75,000 top purse while Nepomniachtchi earned the $50,000 runner-up prize.

“Thank you to the many people who watched the London Chess Classic 2017 and supported me with messages of encouragement. A big congratulations to GM’s Caruana and Nepomniatchi. It was a great experience and London of course is a great city,” So posted on his Facebook account.

Carlsen got $40,000, Vachier-Lagrave received $30,000 and So claimed $25,000.

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Nukes, Russia ban leave Olympics reeling

Nukes, Russia ban leave Olympics reeling

14/12/2017, Philippines, Multi Sports, The Manila Times, Article # 25164622

SEOUL: Holding the Winter Olympics in a little-known corner of South Korea was never an easy proposition, but a ban on Russia and the latent threat of nuclear war have left the hosts hoping that things can only get better.

With less than two months to go, a flurry of problems beyond their control have created a perfect storm for Pyeongchang Olympics organizers as they gear up for the Games at their mountainside HQ.

Not only has Russia, the top medal-winner at the 2014 Sochi Games, been barred over a major drugs scandal, but North Korea has staged a series of nuclear and missile tests while trading threats of war with the United States.

The Games have also been shorn of stars from the National Hockey League (NHL), which is snubbing the event after the International Olympic Committee refused to pay costs such as travel and insurance.

The President of the Russian Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov (5th right) and officials prepare to start a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday on deciding how to respond to IOC ban on Russia participating in Winter Games. AFP PHOTO

“Dark clouds are hanging over the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics,” the South’s own JoongAng Daily said in an editorial this week.

Public enthusiasm appears limited in the host country, where Unification Minister Cho Myoung-Gyon warned that another North Korean military provocation could deliver a “fatal blow” to the Games.

But as the problems mount, organisers remain defiant. Lee Hee-Beom, president of the organising committee, told AFP: “Minister Cho has gone beyond his brief. I find it regrettable. Sport must be separated from politics.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-In lamented that cross-border tensions were “higher than ever” before the Games — but hoped it was like “the darkness before dawn”.

“It will be resolved in the end and this is only a matter of time,” he added according to Yonhap news agency.

Personal insults
Russia’s team was barred by the IOC over a “systematic” doping conspiracy culminating at the Sochi Games, where officials are accused of secretly switching urine samples through a “mousehole” in the laboratory wall.

President Vladimir Putin protested the ban as “political” but said he had no intention of calling a boycott, leaving clean Russian athletes free to compete under the Olympic flag.

Meanwhile, the North’s weapons tests and bellicose, sometimes personal, insults between Pyongyang and Washington have sent tensions soaring on the peninsula and the wider region.

North Korea — just 80 kilometers (50 miles) away from the venues across a heavily armed border — boycotted the 1988 Seoul Summer Games and is yet to confirm its participation in Pyeongchang.

It has not helped efforts to characterize the Games as a “Peace Olympics”.

“The double whammy — North Korea and the IOC ban on Russia — dealt telling blows to our efforts to make the Games a success. But these are beyond our control,” said Yoo Jong-Sang, a professor of sports studies at Nambu University in Gwangju.

“As to these outside factors, we have nothing to do but cross our fingers,” he added.

At least the bad news stories have meant increased attention for Pyeongchang, which was previously so obscure that it was unfamiliar even to many Koreans.

Its name can also be confused with Pyongyang, so much so that a Kenyan delegate to a 2014 UN conference in Pyeongchang mistakenly flew to the North’s capital, where he was interrogated for five hours before being released.

Keep calm and focus
According to Marcus Luer, CEO of Malaysia-based sports marketing agency Total Sports Asia, “No publicity is the only bad publicity” for Pyeongchang.

Any major sporting event usually has “some controversial thing going on prior to it”, he added.

“It comes with the territory. These events are so large, a lot of money is at stake, the world is watching… Once the Games are happening, assuming nothing crazy happens, the focus will be on the Games.”

Organisers are also upbeat about ticket sales, which have improved since the Olympic torch relay began traversing South Korea in November.

As of Sunday, 586,300 tickets out of a total 1.18 million had been sold in South Korea and abroad, organizers said, or 49.7 percent.

About half of all Olympic tickets are normally sold in the last two months and during the Games, said POCOG spokeswoman Lee Jie-Hye, so “we don’t expect any problems with meeting the target”.

Luer advised POCOG to focus on the job at hand, and not be distracted by events swirling around the Games.

“At the moment, they just have to stay calm, focus on what they need to be doing and that is running the perfect Games. That is all they can do,” he said.

“What happens prior to that around the world is really out of their control,” Luer added. “Their job is to host the Games, their job is not to worry about politics.”

AFP

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3 Filipinos hop into World 9-Ball Round-of-16

3 Filipinos hop into World 9-Ball Round-of-16

14/12/2017, Philippines, Multi Sports, The Manila Times, Article # 25164623

Three Filipino cue masters barged into the Round-of-16 in the prestigious 2017 World 9-Ball Championship being held at the Al Arabi Sports Club in Doha, Qatar.

World Games gold medalist Carlo Biado, Jeffery Ignacio and Roland Garcia posted two straight victories in the knockout stage to earn spots in the next round of the tournament sanctioned by the World Pool-Billiard Association.

Biado ousted Daniel Tangudd in the first round, 11-6, and Tomasz Kaplan of Poland in the second round, 11-8.

Ignacio blasted Lo Ho Sum of Hong Kong in the opening round, 11-4, then survived compatriot Francisco Felicilda in the next round, 11-9.

Carlo Biado CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Garcia also had a good start with victories over Mohammad Al Amin of Bangladesh in the first round, 11-4, and Niels Feijen of the Netherlands in the second round, 11-7, of the $200,000 tournament.

However, Biado will be battling Ignacio for a spot in the quarterfinals while Garcia has Ko Pin Yi of Taiwan as his next foe.

The other pairing in the Last 16 are defending champion Albin Ouschan of Austria versus Wu Kun Lin of Taiwan, former champion Thorsten Hohmann of Germany versus Hsieh Chia Chen of Taiwan, Liu Haitao of China versus Ko Ping Chung of Taiwan, Jalal Al Sarisi Yousef of Venezuela versus Dang Jinhu of China, Maung Maung of Myanmar versus Joshua Filler of Germany, and Klenti Kaci of Albania versus John Morra of Canada.

The Last 16 matches will be held on Wednesday night.

Besides Felicilda, Warren Kiamco, Jeffrey De Luna and Israel Rota were also booted out of contention.

Kiamco trounced Kong Dejing of China in the first round (11-4) but lost to Wu Kun Lin of Taiwan in the second round (11-8) while De Luna scored an 11-7 win over Maksim Dudanets of Russia in the first round before suffering an 11-9 loss to Maung.

Rota lost to Liu in the first round, 3-11.

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Fury cleared to fight again after ‘nightmare’

Fury cleared to fight again after ‘nightmare’

14/12/2017, Philippines, Multi Sports, The Manila Times, Article # 25164624

LONDON: Controversial former heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury vowed Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) to put the “nightmare of the last two years” behind him and reclaim his world titles after being cleared to resume his career.

The British boxer agreed a compromise with UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) over his positive test for the banned steroid nandrolone, which has resulted in a two-year ban that has been backdated to December 2015.

The 29-year-old has been given the go-ahead to fight again immediately, subject to receiving a license.

Fury, who has not fought since his shock win against Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015 to become the undisputed heavyweight world champion, said he was looking forward to getting back into the ring.

“I’m a fighting man through and through and I’ve never backed down from anyone in my life and I was certainly not going to back down from fighting this dispute,” he said.

He had been charged along with his cousin Hughie, who also failed a test for nandrolone in February 2015.

“Hughie and I have maintained our innocence from day one and we’re now happy that it has finally been settled with UKAD and that we can move forward knowing that we’ll not be labelled drug cheats,” added Tyson Fury.

“I can now put the nightmare of the last two years behind me… Next year I will be back doing what I do best, better than ever and ready to reclaim the world titles which are rightfully mine.”

Fury immediately laid down a challenge to compatriot Anthony Joshua, who successfully defended his IBF and WBA titles against Carlos Takam in October.

Fury tweeted: “@anthonyfjoshua where you at boy? I’m coming for you punk ent no1 blocking my path now!”

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has said he wants to see his fighter take on Fury in an all-British showdown next year.

Licence suspended
The Furys were not charged by UKAD until June 2016, by which time Tyson Fury had beaten Klitschko.

Four months later, the British Boxing Board of Control suspended his licence after he had given up his world titles to focus on recovering from mental health problems.

Both Hughie and Tyson Fury have strongly denied the nandrolone charges, saying the positive tests were a result of eating wild boar that had not been castrated.

Tyson Fury also failed a test for cocaine in September 2016 and later admitted using the recreational drug to deal with depression related to his injury and UKAD problems.

As part of the compromise deal, UKAD withdrew a charge against Tyson Fury of failure to provide a sample in September 2016.

“The anti-doping rule violations based on the reported presence of elevated levels of nandrolone metabolites are upheld, the refusal charge is withdrawn, Hughie and Tyson Fury each receive a two-year period of ineligibility,” the UKAD statement said.

“The two-year period of ineligibility is backdated to 13 December 2015, and therefore expires at midnight on 12 December 2017,” it added.

UKAD added that the two fighters’ results from February 2015 had been disqualified, but that later results, including Fury’s victory over Klitschko, would stand.

AFP

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Tiffany aims to sparkle on LPGA Tour

Tiffany aims to sparkle on LPGA Tour

14/12/2017, Philippines, Multi Sports, The Manila Times, Article # 25164625

HONG KONG: Tiffany Chan says she is still coming down to earth after becoming the first golfer from Hong Kong to qualify to compete with the world’s elite on the lucrative US LPGA Tour.

The 24-year-old finished second last week at the final stage of the LPGA Tour’s qualifying school in Florida behind Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, earning a coveted tour card for 2018.

It means she will now rub shoulders with superstars such as New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson of the US and China’s world number one Feng Shanshan—and has put Hong Kong on the golfing map.

“This is my dream—I spent a lot of time and energy preparing for it. You can say the last four or five years had been dedicated to this goal,” Chan told Agence France-Presse. “I haven’t calmed down yet.”

Hong Kong golfer Tiffany Chan playing a shot during the EFG Golf Day 2017 event at the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club in Hong Kong’s Sai Kung district. AFP PHOTO

Softly spoken and self-possessed, Chan describes the sport as mentally demanding due to a host of variables, from the weather to her overall condition, but she hopes her new-found status will encourage other Hong Kong youngsters to give golf a try.

The bustling southern Chinese city of seven million people has just six golf clubs with 10 courses, and most are exclusive members-only facilities perched on picturesque coastlines and islands.

But Chan disputes the notion that golf in Hong Kong is only for the rich—and says her own story shows that anybody in the city can take up the sport.

Chan first learned to love golf at a public driving range near her home in the northwestern suburb of Tuen Mun.

It charged just HK$6 (US$0.77) per hour for children at the time, Chan recalled, in a city where golf club memberships often change hands for millions of dollars.

What started as a way to have fun at the weekend with other children became a more regular pursuit when she took up free classes offered to young players at the age of eight.

“I hope to use my results to show that golf is not just something for businessmen or a game for the rich,” Chan said. “I want to inspire kids from any socio-economic background to fight for their own goals.”

Home-grown talent
Chan’s burgeoning talent earned her sponsorship as a teenager by Swiss private bank EFG who continue to support her career.

She went on to win US national titles in 2014 and 2015 at the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) golf championships while attending Daytona State College in Florida.

She transferred to the University of Southern California and graduated earlier this year before turning professional.

Mainland China has long been hailed as an important future market for golf and has produced players such as women’s number one Feng, and recent European Tour winners Wu Ashun and Li Haotong.

Feng, a multiple winner on the LPGA Tour also took Olympic bronze in Rio 2016, where Chan competed as an amateur and finished 37th ahead of some notable professionals such as Lin Xiyu of China and a 14-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, Gwladys Nocera of France.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has never produced a golfing household name. Chan’s rise could change that.

“Tiffany’s our first ever homegrown talent to qualify for a major tour,” said Brad Schadewitz, Chan’s former coach.

“Everybody knew that it’s possible but actually having somebody do it—I think it gives even more inspiration especially to young girls in Hong Kong,” added Schadewitz, who is lead coach at the Hong Kong Golf Association.

Chan says her next challenge is to break into the top 50 in 2018 and maintain her status on the tour in the coming years.

She will be facing tough competition from other Asian stars such as number one Feng and second and third-ranked Sung Hyun-Park and Ryu So-yeon from South Korea, a country which dominates women’s golf with 22 players currently in the world’s top 50.

“I will need to keep up the same spirit as I did in the qualifying tournament,” Chan told Agence France-Presse. “I don’t want to relax or slacken after an achievement.”

AFP

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Petron goes for the kill vs F2 Logistics

Petron goes for the kill vs F2 Logistics

14/12/2017, Philippines, Multi Sports, The Manila Times, Article # 25164626

Petron aims to chomp down on the jugular of rival F2 Logistics in Game 2 of the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix best-of-three finals series tonight at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Or the Blaze Spikers would stake their chance for a quick kill and a second title if they drop their 7 pm match with the Cargo Movers seeking to extend their lives in this season-ending conference bankrolled by Mikasa, Grand Sport, Senoh, Mueller, Island Rose, Cloudfone and UCPB Gen.

After flirting with disaster in the quarterfinals, a confident and more prepared Petron squad showed up to demolish F2 Logistics, 25-14, 25-21, 25-16, in Game 1 of this title showdown that also has Gerflor and Gold’s Gym as technical sponsors and ESPN5 as official broadcast partner.

In that match, the Cargo Movers simply had no answer to the masterful performances of American imports Lindsay Stalzer and Hillary Hurley, as well as to the powerful services and relentless attacks of the Blaze Spikers’ crew.

Stalzer and Hurley finished with 20 points apiece while the Blaze Spikers dropped nine points from the service box and 42 markers from the attack zone to completely destroy the vaunted net and floor defense of the Cargo Movers.

Venezuelan Maria Jose Perez was the lone bright spot for the Cargo Movers. She finished with 15 points while the presence of American Kennedy Bryan, Kianna Dy, Majoy Baron and Aby Marano was hardly felt.

Even star libero Dawn Macandili was heavily outplayed by the Blaze Spikers as she tallied only five excellent digs.

Despite this impressive performance, Petron head coach Shaq Delos Santos still refuses to count the Cargo Movers out, saying their foes have what it takes to launch a massive comeback.

“F2 Logistics is such a tough team to deal with. I’m sure they will make a comeback,” said Delos Santos, whose wards also knocked out the Cargo Movers in the finals of the All-Filipino Conference last July.

“We have to prepare hard and double our effort. Our good performance in Game 1 will be worthless if we won’t be prepared for Game 2. We have to maintain our good form from start to finish.”

Delos Santos noted that F2 Logistics head coach Ramil de Jesus is a master tactician who is very good at making crucial adjustments.

In fact, de Jesus is no longer rattled by the pressure of the finals after rallying De La Salle University to 10 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) titles and the Cargo Movers to the All-Filipino crown last year.

“We failed our test in Game 1. Now, we have to go back to the drawing board to pass Game 2 and stay alive,” said de Jesus, adding that he just reminded the Cargo Movers to bounce back in his post-match speech.

“All I told them was that we need to bounce back and to give their 100 percent in Game 2. That’s it. We have to give our 100 percent for our next game.”

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