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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sour grapes, what else

By Ding Marcelo - Manila Bulletin - September 27, 2008

La Salle could have gone out with its head high during the championship series.

But leave it to coach Franz Pumaren to stain a great game and an exceptional Ateneo victory -- and to damage his own credibility -- by claiming that bad officiating did the Green Archers in.

Well, I can’t blame the guy. He’s got to justify the loss, find a scapegoat and what better scapegoat than the referees. It would be shameful if the school shared this misconception and allow this coach to rant about officiating instead of saying that his team will come back next year and play better.

He did not blame himself, did not blame his players who panicked and played selfish and, at times, arrogant, he blamed the referees. In doing so, he missed a golden chance to rise above petty partisanship and behave like a true gentleman.

By doing so, he made his players think that they are better than their opponents although they lost fair and square; and by doing so he tried to convince the La Salle community that they’ve been cheated. What kind of coach is this? Is he talking truthfully or is he simply trying to save his job?
The referees weren’t perfect, that’s for sure. They called a very tight game, worried perhaps that it might deteriorate to the point they would lose control. It just happened that Ateneo adjusted to the referees, La Salle did not.

From a neutral standpoint, there were no glaring errors that would merit the post-game tirade of Pumaren, or any call by the referee that would have altered the outcome of the game. Instead of coming out and praising the Blue Eagles for being the better team, he now claims things would have been different had the referees been less whistle happy.

His claim of referees being biased or incompetent would not have been laughable had La Salle won a game against Ateneo this season. As it is, La Salle lost all four encounters. Also, his claim that La Salle could have won the game would have been believable if La Salle did not have to struggle to make it to the Final 4 and take the second seeding through playoffs.

Instead of being grateful for having gone this far with an overachieving team, Pumaren tried to deflect the loss from his own shortcomings to his own perception that the referees "decided the game."

What an unsportsmanlike gesture.

Imagine Pumaren saying the game was scripted for an Ateneo win. And then said he’s not sour-graping. What do you call that?

Pumaren, should learn how to accept defeat. These things come naturally. And those are values taught in La Salle schools – that you can’t win every day and every game. Apparently he was off playing basketball when these values were the topics in his classroom.

Besides, when he was winning all those games and all those titles, nobody blamed the referees even when many calls were flawed.

What makes La Salle-Ateneo games special is oftentimes not the quality of the games. It is, as has always been the case, the spirit that both schools bring to the hard court. It is the never-say-die attitude that both teams always bring in abundance that makes their games a treasure and always memorable. This is the reason why games between these two schools are always special and the reason why their rivalry is enduring. Everything is always left on the court.

But Pumaren had to spoil it.

Maybe La Salle should assess his coaching status. Remember that he’s the same guy who was in charge when the school was suspended for bringing in two ineligible players three years ago resulting in embarrassment and the return of a championship trophy.

Had his school been less protective, Pumaren, who claimed to be innocent and a non-participant in the scandal, should have been consigned to oblivion a long time ago.

But he’s still there, ruining his own reputation and that of La Salle's.

A bitter aftertaste

By Ed Picson - Manila Bulletin - September 27, 2008

Basketball fans have never had it so good. In the current break between seasons of the Philippine Basketball Association, there is no dearth of thrilling hoops action as the UAAP and the NCAA has been providing more than ample excitement.

As of this writing, Game 2 of the NCAA Finals between the San Beda Red Lions and the Jose Rizal Heavy Bombers was yet to be played but I will surely make it a point to watch, even if my alma mater, Colegio de San Juan de Letran and its knights were unhorsed in the Final Four.

But let’s not get morose here. That’s how the ball games, as they say.

You win some, you lose some.

While the Red lions may be favored after their win in Game 1, I have admired the way JRU has played under the able mentorship of Ariel Vanguardia. He deserves a lot of the credit for turning things around for this team. It pains me that it was his cunning and his boys’ determination that caused Letran’s fall, but we all need to accept defeat no matter how bitter it tastes.

Which brings me to the classic UAAP championship battle between Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle University the other night.

It was as expected, another spectacle of a game between the two bitter rivals and naturally, emotions ran high. In the end, Ateneo wrapped it up in two games, sweeping the Archers with their 62-51 win in Game 2.

I thought all along that Coach Norman Black and his boys had the more formidable line-up and were able to hold up under extreme pressure, but La Salle was also talent-laden and was just as motivated. So I held off making predictions when asked by friends on what my take was on that series. It would always be fool-hardy to second guess a game that was to be decided not only by talent, skill and preparation. Too many intangibles also figure in the equation.

It turned out to be as closely-fought and contested as expected and I thought Ateneo won it fair and square. There may have been lapses in the officiating as La Salle Coach Franz Pumaren decried, but those looked more a result of human frailty and did not really dictate the end result.

Of course, Pumaren had all the right to complain and we have also observed the need to professionalize officiating in such high-profile games, even in the collegiate ranks. We have cited before the efforts made by the NCAA in hiring PBL referees thus putting a premium on officiating.

But what provided a bitter after taste to an otherwise exhilarating evening was the failure (refusal?) of La Salle to claim the 2nd place trophy during the closing ceremonies. I can understand the disappointment, dejection and all-around grief that muddles a juvenile’s decision-making in the aftermath of such a loss. But I’m sure there were more mature personalities in their organization that could have provided the voice of reason.

Basketball is a sporting event and the object of an inter-school competition is to promote well-being and give all those involved, especially the studentry, the thrill of competition and absorb the effects thereof. These are valuable lessons that are to fortify them for the greater battles ahead in the game called life. And that includes accepting a loss with dignity and honor.

Sadly, this was not the case during the awarding ceremonies and many were sorely disappointed at the display of unsportsmanlike behavior. At the very least, it sent the wrong message to the legion of young minds that were glued to the event.

I hope Coach Pumaren and La Salle officials have a good explanation for the unfortunate incident. They owe it to the public, especially to the young.

Black gets job done

By Jonas Terrado - Manila Bulletin - September 27, 2008

It took him four years, but Norman Black got the job done.

In 2004, Black, a multi-titled coach in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), accepted an offer to handle Ateneo de Manila a challenge he accepted despite the fact that he has not coached a collegiate team before.

"This has been probably a tougher, longer struggle," said Black after steering the Eagles to the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) last Thursday.

Owner of 10 PBA titles, including nine with San Miguel Beer, Black was given high expectations by the Ateneo community to deliver a championship.

But as disappointments began to pile up, Black’s future with Ateneo became untenable.

The pressure increased ten-fold when the Eagles lost to La Salle in the playoffs last year despite sweeping their elimination matches.

Ateneo edged La Salle, 3-2, last season, but the Archers won when it mattered most and eventually crowned themselves champions.

Black said his four years with Ateneo was a learning experience, but gave him a lot of satisfaction.

"It’s a different brand of basketball in college but I think more importantly, the most satisfying thing is just watching the players grow, watching them improve and as they improve, the team improves and the team gets better," he said.

It helps that Black has probably one of the best and heftiest UAAP teams since the University of Santo Tomas frontline of Dennis Espino, Chris Cantonjos and Estong Ballesteros won a four-peat during the mid-1990’s.

Ateneo ended the season with a combined 16-1 record, including a four-game sweep of La Salle.

Led by Most Valuable Player Rabeh Al-Hussaini, the Blue Eagles also had the likes of 6-4 Nonoy Baclao, the eventual Finals MVP, and other decent big men in rookie Nico Salva and veterans Mike Baldos and Jobe Nkemakolam.

Ateneo led the league with 4.6 blocks a game, thanks to Baclao’s 2.6 swats a game in the elimination and 5.5 rejections during the finals series against the Green Archers.

The Blue Eagles also allowed the fewest points in the league at 62.3 points a game.

Height was not the only factor as guards Chris Tiu, Eric Salamat, Jai Reyes and Rookie of the Year small forward Ryan Buenafe provided help on both ends.

"We were pretty intelligent this year," Black said. "We could actually execute defensive strategies that I’ve never been able to execute from my other teams in Ateneo because the guys were very good at taking in whatever we wanted to do as far as strategy is concern."

He added: "We had games were we had four different pick and roll defenses for four different people and they were still able to execute it so a lot of credit goes to the players being dedicated to defense being able to understand what exactly the coaching staff wanted them to do."

Only two players from Ateneo Chris Tiu and Yuri Escueta -- will be gone for next season.

Black said he was glad that Tiu opted to play his fifth season.

"You know college basketball, particularly in Ateneo, when you win a championship you’ll be remembered forever they still remember the championship teams and the guys who won those championships are still looked upon being somewhat like idols so I’m happy for Chris that he came back and win the championship," he said.

Black, whose contract is expected to be extended, is losing no time to prepare his team for next season.

Several players are being eyed by the Loyola-based campus with San Sebastian juniors standout Arvie Bringas and former RP Youth member Jeric Teng among the top prospects.

Ateneo will also make a quick return to the court as well.

The Eagles are contemplating on joining the UNIGAMES in Dumaguete next month before defending their Philippine Collegiate Championship.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pumaren blames officiating for loss

By Tito Talao - Manila Bulletin - September 26, 2008

Franz Pumaren, the De La Salle coach, was shouting above the din of the frenzied Ateneo Blue Eagles celebration in the UAAP Finals.

"It was like a script for Ateneo to win," a bitter Pumaren told sportswriters after the 62-51 loss, unmindful of the consequences of his statement.

"I don’t want to sound like I’m sour-graping, but the referees practically gave them the trophy."
Pumaren’s voice rose and ebbed in anger, his demeanor stern, his pace frantic.

"This is the worst officiated game I’ve ever seen," he said. "The referees decided the game. They didn’t even allow us to play. They robbed all those people out there of a great game."

Pumaren has won five UAAP titles in 10 years for La Salle. But the absence of dominating players like Joseph Yeo, Renren Ritualo, Mark Cardona, Ty Tang and Don Allado this season told heavily on the Green Archers, who were swept by their hated arch-rivals in all four games they met, twice in the best-of-three series.

"I’ve been in the finals so long and I’ve lost a few championships, but I’ve rarely criticized officiating. But this is really the worst," Pumaren said, continuing his harangue. "They wouldn’t allow us to play defense, didn’t even give us a chance."

Pumaren was specifically incensed at the second technical foul slapped on Rico Maierhofer for apparently flipping a middle finger at Ateneo center Rabeh Al-Hussaini with 1:31 left in the third quarter and La Salle within, 49-43.

"How could they make a call like that so crucial in the game?" said Pumaren. "How can they take away a player over something like that?"

After debating the merits of their call and consulting video footage of the play, the referees stuck to their decision, resulting into Maierhofer’s ejection.

Al-Hussaini made one of two technical free throws, and although the Green Archers came within 50-47 on James Mangahas’ 3-point shot and on pure emotion, the absence of Maierhofer, and the subsequent disqualification on fouls of JV Casio, ultimately broke the Green Archers.

Even before the final buzzer went off, former La Salle players slowly left their ringside seats, among them Yeo and Mike Cortez.

Standing glassy-eyed by the baseline was Dino Aldeguer, while Carlo Sharma, Al-Hussaini’s half-brother, leaned against the lower box wall, hidden from view.

Outside the locker room, Pumaren continued to speak with a couple of reporters as the Green Archers piled defiantly one after the other to the dugout.

"Sayang, sayang talaga," he said.

Game Result: ADMU 62 - DLSU 51

ADMU Blue Eagles

62 Points
37 Rebounds
14 Assists
_3 Steals
_8 Blocks
21/45 (46.67%) FG
_2/14 (14.29%) 3P FG
18/28 (64.29%) FT

DLSU Green Archers

51 Points
38 Rebounds
11 Assists
_3 Steals
_3 Blocks
19/68 (27.94%) FG
10/32 (31.25%) 3P FG
_3/8_ (37.50%) FT

Quarters: 16-10, 41-26, 50-47, 62-51

Eagles sweep Archers, ending six-year title drought in UAAP

By Jonas Terrado - Manila Bulletin - September 26, 2008

Ateneo de Manila ended its six-year title drought in grand fashion, sweeping rival De La Salle, 62-51, to bag the UAAP basketball championship yesterday before an overflow crowd at the Araneta Coliseum.

Team captain Chris Tiu ended his collegiate career in style, scoring 16 points as he made up for his two point showing in Game 1.

The celebrated Ateneo guard shot 4-of-7 from the field while hitting a perfect 7-of-7 from the stripe as he finally won his first-andonly crown since he began joining the Loyola-based school five years ago.

What Tiu started with 13 points in the first half, Nonoy Baclao, bruised knee and all, finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.

His work underneath the basket earned Baclao the Most Valuable Player award in the Finals.

It marked the third time in four title meetings that the Eagles bested the Archers. They also beat the Archers in 1988 and 2001.

The Eagles also completed a sweep of the Archers in four games this season, also a first in their storied collegiate rivalry.

Ateneo coach Norman Black fought off tears after winning his first collegiate title. He took over the reins from Sandy Arespacochaga in 2005.

"It feels good," said Black. "I’ve been coaching Ateneo for four years now and finally I was able to give them the championship and it’s a good feeling."

La Salle was hurt by the ejection of La Salle’s Rico Maierhofer who was slapped his second technical foul with 1:31 left in the third quarter for waving a "dirty finger."

La Salle coach Franz Pumaren vehemently protested the call.

"If you noticed, I don’t complain too much but this is the worst officiating I have ever seen," Pumaren said.

La Salle was slapped a total of 29 fouls compared to Ateneo’s 13.

The halftime ended at 41-26 in Ateneo’s favor as the Eagles poured seven straight points.

Ateneo shot a blistering 65 percent from the field compared to La Salle’s 35 percent clip in the first 20 minutes of play.

But JV Casio rallied the Archers in the third period, scoring 12 points as the Ateneo lead shrank to just three, 50-47.

However, Casio was assessed with his fourth foul with 38.5 seconds left in the third quarter, prompting Pumaren to pull him out of the court.

From there, the Blue Eagles took over down the stretch as Baclao tipped in a miss shot before Jai Reyes scored an uncontested runner for a 10-point spread with 1:21 left.

Casio, playing his last game in the UAAP, led La Salle with 18 points on 6of-14 shooting from the field while adding five rebounds and two assists as he sat most off the second half after suffering his fourth personal foul with 38.5 left in the third.

With Casio out, the rest of the team failed to take over with PJ Walsham as the nearest player to score a double-digit with eight points.

Maierfhofer made eight points and 11 rebounds before he was thrown out.

Black cited their defense in the second half.

"It really held up for us because our offense in the second half really didn’t click but the defense stayed firm," said Black.

Baclao, who was a prized recruit from West Negros College, averaged 6.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.5 blocks in the two games title series.

"And we’re very fortunate we went to Bacolod and recruited Noy because he was the cornerstone of our defense," said Black.

"Parang di ko maexplain yung nararamdaman ko kasi La Salle pa kalaban ko tapos nung third quarter nung sumakit yung knee ko akala ko hindi na ako makakabalik," said the 21-year old Baclao.

It was a disappointing loss for the Green Archers who were swept in the finals for just the fifth time in a best-of-three series.

DLSU was swept by UST in 1994 and 1996 and by FEU in 1997 and 2005.

A total of 22,955 fans watched the last game of the season. Security was as tight as ever as several media people were forced to cover the games in the press room due to the heavy attendance. Only photographers were only allowed to sit on the baseline floor.

Over at the South Gate, officials, VIP’s and media personnel spent about an hour or two before entering the coliseum premises.

Rabeh Al-Hussaini, adjudged as the league’s Most Valuable Player, scored just seven points, all in the second half, while grabbing five rebounds after committing two quick fouls in the opening period.

The scores:

Ateneo (62) - Tiu 16, Nkemakolam 8, Baclao 8, Al-Hussaini 7, Baldos 6, Buenafe 5, Reyes 5, Salamat 3, Austria 2, Escueta 2

La Salle (51) - Casio 18, Walsham 8, Maierfhofer 7, Revilla 5, Bagatsing 3, Atkins 3, Mangahas 3, Malabes 2, Ferdinand 2, Villanueva 0, Barua 0

UAAP 71: Men's Basketball Awards

UAAP Men's Basketball Awards

Most Valuable Player - Rabeh Al-Hussaini, ADMU

Finals MVP - Severino Baclao, ADMU

Mythical Five:
C - Rabeh Al-Hussaini, ADMU
F - Jervy Cruz, UST
F - Rico Maierhofer, DLSU
G - Chris Tiu, ADMU
G - JV Casio, DLSU

Rookie of the Year - Ryan Buenafe (ADMU)

Special Awards

PSBank Maaasahan Player - Chris Tiu, ADMU

KFC Court Colonel - Eric Salamat, ADMU
Smart Defensive Player of the Year - Severino Baclao, ADMU
Jollibee Champ of the Season - Rabeh Al-Hussaini, ADMU
Appeton Most Improved Player - Rabeh Al-Hussaini, ADMU
Head & Shoulder Crucial Stop of the Season - DLSU against FEU (Sept. 14)

Tokyo Tokyo Rookie Team:
C - Nicolas Salva, ADMU
F - Ryan Buenafe, ADMU
F - Joshua Webb, DLSU
G - Clark Bautista, UST
G - Luis Alfonso Revilla, DLSU

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Casio ready for ‘mother of all battles’

By Jonas Terrado - Manila Bulletin - September 25, 2008

La Salle guard JV Casio was disappointed after they lost Game 1, but he knows the war is far from over.

Out to finish his collegiate career in a blaze of glory, Casio vowed to give it all when they meet the Ateneo Eagles in today’s crucial Game 2 which he considered as the "mother of all battles".

"Well, kailangan nila ng dalawang panalo di ba, so it’s not yet over. All we need now is to forget this game and look forward for the next game," said Casio after Game 1 where the Ateneo Eagles romped to a masterful 69-61 win.

Actually, Casio’s poor shooting early the game gave the Eagles enough opportunities to break the game wide open, and this is what the Archers are trying to work on.

"We have to be extra sharp," said La Salle coach Franz Pumaren.

"It’s do or die for us so we need to do a super-duper-extra effort," added Casio.

Despite finishing with 20 points, Casio’s shooting percentage was awful as he converted only 8 of 24 from the field.

Just like the way he started his career for La Salle, Casio wants to end it on a high note.

He won the Rookie of the Year plum in 2003 and was named as co-Finals MVP in last season’s title conquest of University of the East.

This season, Casio averaged 17 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists on 45 percent shooting.

Curiously, he was not as productive when they are playing against their bitter rivals as averaged 14.7 points in three times they met this season. He scored only five points in their second round encounter.

No tomorrow for La Salle; win at all cost for Ateneo

By Andy Jao - Manila Bulletin - September 25, 2008

“We got to live to fight another day.” This must be the battle cry that the coaches of La Salle are telling their players as they go into Game 2 of the championship series today.

The question is can they extend the series? They have lost three games to the Blue Eagles this year and though the games have been close they have not found a way to break through with a win.

Make no mistake about it, the Archers fought valiantly in Game 2. Coach Franz Pumaren and his staff have done a good job at scouting, preparing, and motivating their players. In Game 1 of the championship series, the Archers were very aggressive with their press, always attacking the man with the ball in the backcourt, forcing them close to the sidelines, and making the Eagles give up a lot of turnovers.

Obviously, they felt that they did not want to play Ateneo on a half court game with the frontline of Rabeh Al Hussaini and Nonoy Baclao being so dominant against all the teams in the UAAP. But in the end it still proved fruitless as Ateneo came up with a 69-61 victory.

What more can La Salle do to extend the series. Will they play more zone? Will they double team or be more aggressive in coming at Ateneo’s prize center --Al Husssaini? Will the Archers play more physical so as to frustrate Ateneo’s smaller backcourt? Only the Archers can answer what game plan they have for Game No. 2.

Suffice it to say they will not be lacking in adrenalin and determination to delay or even snatch what the Eagles are hoping for and that is the coveted championship which every Ateneo diehard fan is hoping for.

On the Eagle’s side, all those wins in the elimination round as well as the playoffs would go to naught if they do not clinch the crown whether it be on Thursday or on Sunday. They have proven to be the dominant team as well as being the most balanced team in the league. Riding the crest of Al Hussaini’s explosive performance this season, the Eagles have shown that they can defend very well led by the defensive player of the year (if there is such an award)-- Nonoy Baclao.

Coach Norman Black knows that he has to win this year. The School and its supporters have undergone a tremendous recruiting program that netted them prize rookie Ryan Buenafe and he has lived up to expectations. Black would like to erase the memories of the 2006 season where he had a championship in his grasp until it was taken away the UST Tigers.

What makes Ateneo click? A lot of people say a deep bench, great scoring from anywhere on the court. I say amen to this observation but I have to add that I have watched them all season and we must give credit to the way they defend. They know how to make adjustments against any team they have played. They play the pick and roll defensively well, they can zone, and they defend the 3-second area as if their lives depended on it.

Franz Pumaren a known winner on this stage against Norman Black, a coach who would like to stamp his mark on Philippine basketball as having won both on the pro and the collegiate level.

They say that a basketball game is still just a game whether it be an elimination round game or a championship game. But no game between La Salle and Ateneo is ever just a game. It is a matter of pride. That is why we all come and watch it. The people involved just leave everything on the floor.

We can expect another spectacular battle fought hard but also with a lot of sportsmanship. That‘s the way these two schools compete and that is why we love them.

Ateneo guns for UAAP title today

By Jonas Terrado - Manila Bulletin - September 25, 2008

In what stands as their last chance, the embattled De La Salle Green Archers get one final shot at ruffling the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ feathers.

So far, the Blue Eagles have proved impervious to the shafts of the Green Archers, having beaten their arch-rivals in all three of their previous meetings this year.

Now La Salle is down to its last arrow, and the target, circling imperiously above, is looking to swoop down for the kill.

Ateneo goes for the jugular today even as La Salle looks to keep its season alive in Game 2 of the 71st UAAP basketball finals at the Araneta Coliseum.

After a coasting 69-61 win in the opener Sunday, the Blue Eagles seek to continue their dominance with Most Valuable Player Rabeh Al-Hussaini leading the way.

Al-Hussaini, who will receive his MVP award before the game, wound up with 31 points on 14-of-26 shooting, while adding nine rebounds as he terrorized the DLSU frontline during the 40-minute affair.

Also producing for Ateneo is rookie of the year Ryan Buenafe, who scored 12 points, all in the first half, while adding 11 rebounds and five assists as he took over the chores left unfulfilled by Chris Tiu, who sat out the game due to foul trouble.

Despite having the edge over their fiercest foes, especially with Ateneo’s 3-0 record against them, Blue Eagles coach Norman Black remains cautious.

"They are definitely capable of beating us but that’s not our focus," Black said. "Our focus is to win the championship which means we have to beat them one more time."

A victory by the Loyola-based squad would give them their fourth title since joining the league in 1979. ADMU won back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988, beating University of the East and La Salle, respectively.

After 14 years, the Blue Eagles dumped the Green Archers anew in three full games in 2002 to grab its last UAAP title.

While Al-Hussaini and Buenafe are constant factors, Ateneo is hoping that team captain Tiu and reserve guard Eric Salamat will return to form.

Tiu sat out the bench early with two quick fouls and finished with only two points, the same output as Salamat last Sunday.

Expected to again rise to the occasion is point guard Jai Reyes, who scored 12 points, including a three-pointer seconds before halftime that pushed the Eagles’ lead to 36-29. Another key figure, Nonoy Baclao, is seeking to repeat his seven block effort in Game 1.

Down but not out, DLSU head coach Franz Pumaren is still confident of forcing a winner-take-all match on Sunday.

"It takes two to win a championship," Pumaren said. "I don’t think they can count us out because we can come back."

In Game 1, JV Casio had 20 points despite an 8-of-24 shooting while Rico Maierhofer contributed 17 points and 16 rebounds. None of their teammates contributed much, however, as James Mangahas was limited to five points from four quick fouls with Peejay Barua, Bader Malabes and Maui Villanueva combining for a mere 14 points.

La Salle has a history of winning Game 2 of a championship series after losing the opener. The two most recent were in 1999 against University of Santo Tomas and in 2002 against Ateneo.

For La Salle to win, they have to recover from a dismal 29 percent shooting, while hoping their three-point shooting clip would fare better than 16 of 19.

In three games this season, Ateneo has dominated La Salle in almost all categories.

Ateneo shot 44 percent compared to La Salle’s 34 percent clip. They had the advantage in rebounds (44.3 to 39.3) and in second chance points (10.7 to 4.3).

Baclao’s fly-swatting exploits has also helped the Loyola-based squad to have a huge advantage in blocks, 7.0-3.7.

Before the game, Al-Hussaini and Ryan Buenafe will be officially named as the league’s MVP and Rookie of the Year, respectively.

Al-Hussaini edged out UST’s Jervy Cruz for the coveted award while Buenafe was the overwhelming choice for best rookie of the season.

The Mythical Five, Most Improved Player and the Defensive Player of the Year honors will also be conferred to the winners.

Adamson juniors standout Mark Juruena and UST cagebelle Marichu Bacaro will also receive their MVP trophies.

We would like to thank Diana Moraleda of Inboundpass for the photos.