Most Memorable Philippine Sports Stories of 2014 (Part 2)
Mark Escarlote on Dec 30, 2014 10:53 AM
The Ateneo Lady Eagles' dream season that ended with their first ever UAAP women's volleyball title was one of the top stories in local sports in 2014.
Philippine sports is not all about statistics, triumphs or defeats, nor about medals and championships won or lost, or of glory or downfall.
What make sports in the country colorful are the things that happen behind the scenes. Anecdotes that add spice to an already appetizing smorgasbord of sports events that Filipino athletes embarked on and that fans follow.
In the second of two parts, ABS-CBN Sports lists down local sports’ most memorable, shocking, controversial, and bizarre stories from the year about to end.
5. Everybody wants a piece of it
The year 2014 is considered as Philippine volleyball’s renaissance.
Volleyball players from the collegiate ranks up to the club division became household names and instant celebrities. Fans and sponsors poured their overflowing support to the sport that lay in doldrums for years.
The Philippine Superliga and Shakey’s V-League became venues for players who have finished their eligibility in the collegiate level to continue playing.
For the first time in almost a decade the Philippines hosted a major international event and even finished a historic seventh place in the Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championships.
The influx of caliber foreign women’s player in the PSL and V-League generated more interest from the public. And the country’s biggest telecommunication company is bankrolling the formation and training of the men’s and women’s national teams.
From here comes the problem.
The Philippine Volleyball Federation is now a war zone between two feuding factions in a tug-of-war for control of the sport’s governing body and the athletes are caught in a crossfire.
PVF interim president Karl Chan and secretary-general Rustico Camangian worked for the formation of the national team but is now being opposed by another faction headed by Gener Dungo, the elected president who took an indefinite leave of absence last May 2013.
This political division inside the PVF threatened to jeopardize the national teams’ preparation and participation for the Southeast Asian Games in Singapore on June. Volleyball darling Rachel Anne Daquis shed tears during a sports forum early this month as the national athletes admit that they are getting demoralized by the issues.
Then the Philippine Olympic Committee intervened and took control of the PVF’s affair temporarily but made things worse when it announced that a new set of tryouts for the national team is scheduled on January.
The two PVF factions, meanwhile, instead of trying to mend their differences added fuel to the fire by announcing that each will have separate elections, a week apart early next year.
4. Gilas shocker
Fresh from its morale lifting stint in the FIBA World Cup a month before, Gilas Pilipinas was expected to win it all in the Incheon Asian Games last September.
But before the national team could fly to South Korea, Gilas got its first taste of difficulty when the Asiad organizers ruled naturalized player Andray Blatche ineligible to play even after numerous attempts by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to appeal his case.
SBP, coach Chot Reyes and even the fans also had to convince veteran point guard and spark plug Jimmy Alapag, who announced his intention to retire from the national team after FIBA World, for a swan song in the Asiad.
Gilas got through the quarterfinals where they faced Qatar, South Korea and Kazakhstan.
The national squad preached "puso" but lacked the backbone in the end game when Gilas bowed to Qatar and the stench of blame spilled out from the locker room when Reyes accused naturalized player Marcus Douthit of ‘quitting’ in the game.
Reyes benched Douthit the next game when Gilas lost to South Korea by a hair.
The fiery coach during the postgame hits out on some Filipino journalists as reports of the growing tension within the team were getting sour reactions from the fans back home. There was even an incident where Reyes snapped back at a veteran sportswriter when the reporter asked about the team’s “same old story” of end game woes.
With backs against the wall, the national squad needed to win by 11 points against Kazakhstan to enter the semifinals.
Gilas was cruising to a double digit lead in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter but the Kazakhs fought back and got within two. Gilas in an attempt to put the game in overtime and try to get back the needed quotient tasked Marcus Douthit to shoot an own goal after the backcourt inbound.
The basket was disallowed by the referees and gave the possession back to Kazkhstan. Gilas fouled Kazakhstan but they deliberately missed both free throws and accepted their defeat with a smile as they took the semis ticket against eventual champion SoKor.
Gilas coaching staff’s decision to force overtime in a mockery of the game drew disgust and criticism from fans especially when it’s clear in the FIBA rule book that intentional own goal shots merits a turnover.
After the incident Gilas lost in the classification round against China before routing Mongolia to finish seventh, a notch lower from two years ago.
Last October Reyes resigned from his post and the team disbanded. American Tab Baldwin was named as Reyes’ replacement in mid-December.
3. The Asian Games question
What happened? Who to blame? Where to point fingers?
The Asiad debacle is obvious more than before when the Philippines’ campaign proved to be a dud after a dismal 22nd place finish overall with only a gold, three silver and 11 bronze medals.
BMX rider Daniel Caluag delivered the highest mint for Team Philippines in his event that went under the radar with focus on possible success coming from boxing, taekwondo, wushu, bowling and from men’s basketball.
The Philippine Sports Commission washed their hands from the debacle stating that their only concern is to fund the 52 national sports associations. The NSAs are the ones responsible for the training of their respective athletes.
PSC wanted to forget the Asiad disaster and just focus on next year’s Southeast Asian Games in Singapore where their target is to redeem the country’s pride after the Philippines’ seventh place finish two years ago in Myanmar.
It was the lowest finish for the Philippines in the SEA Games. After winning the overall title as hosts in 2005, the Filipinos have dropped to sixth, fifth, sixth and seventh in the succeeding years.
“In this SEA Games we have to focus and really push for a better performance of at least number three or number four,” PSC chairman Ricardo Garcia said. “Hindi na puwedeng sixth or seventh.”
2. General trouble
A quick look back at NCAA basketball will not be about the red-clad squad from Mendiola roaring to half a decade dynasty.
What left a mark this year for the oldest collegiate league in the country was the free-for-all incident between Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals and Mapua Cardinals, two of this year’s losing teams.
A non-bearing game became infamous after officials stopped the match with the Generals ahead 86-77 with only 28.5 seconds remaining as only one player each is left from each side after the bench-clearing incident.
With the game all but decided, EAC guard John Tayongtong while bringing the ball down from the back court shoved with his broad shoulder Cardinal CJ Isit. Leo Gabo as a retaliation for his teammate confronted and pushed Tayongtong with his forehand at midcourt.
Generals forward Jan Jamon immediately ran to his teammate’s side and pushed Gabo with an official trying to break the two. Isolated from the official, Tayongtong unleashed a crushing right haymaker to Isit’s left temple, flooring the Mapua player and a barbaric melee followed.
A rather comical scene happened almost simultaneously when Jamon and two more EAC players chased Gabo, who used an official as a human shield, ran behind the committee's table before scampering away back towards his bench.
Wide-bodied security personnel failed to stop the bedlam before it escalated into a full hand-to-hand skirmish. All players involved were automatically ejected with only Jessie Saitanan of Mapua and EAC’s Joshua General left on their respective bench.
A total of 17 players and three referees were suspended with EAC and Mapua forced to forfeit their next games due to lack of eligible players.
Before the incident the Generals are already walking time bombs waiting to explode after their players admitted that the management pulled the plug in their food and beverage allowance for two months.
Noube Happi and Igee King since left the team midway in EAC’s forgettable or rather unforgettable season.
1. There’s no drama like UAAP drama
The Ateneo Lady Eagles headline the first quarter of 2014 showing its resiliency and heart strong mantra in the 76th UAAP women’s volleyball tournament.
Ateneo pulled through a total of five do-or-die games for the team’s breakthrough title starting from the step-ladder match against Adamson Lady Falcons.
The Lady Eagles staved off elimination by booting out Dindin Santiago-led National U Lady Bulldogs, armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, to face three-time champion and undefeated La Salle.
La Salle was caught off guard in the first match but recovered in Game Two. Ateneo will not be denied with its date with destiny in the next two games to deal the Taft-based school its second painful loss with a team holding a thrice-to-beat advantage after its women’s table tennis squad bowed to UP Lady Maroons.
In July the legal war in the UAAP's eligibility rule continued with Senator Pia Cayetano filing a bill in the senate that seeks to outlaw 'unfair' practices such as residency rules in college leagues.
The league reverted to their old one-year residency rule for secondary and college transfers who wanted to play in a different member school unless given a release from their former school.
Catfight broke out in Season 77 women’s basketball involving University of Sto. Tomas’ Kim Reyes and Bettina Buenaflor in the Tigresses' loss to NU, August 16 at the Blue Eagle gym.
Reyes punched a NU player with 6:36 remaining in the third while Buenaflor elbows another with 18 seconds left in the quarter. Both were given a one-game ban.
Buenaflor was also involved in a pre-season game brawl together with teammates Lore rivera, Maica Cortes, Tin Caplit and Angel Anies against Rizal Technological U last summer.
In the center-piece men’s basketball, UP finally ended its 27-game losing streak that spanned for two years by defeating Adamson.
The Diliman-based squad celebrated its victory by lighting a bonfire in UP Sunken Garden. The Maroons got the win without head coach Rey Madrid after serving his second of two-game ban meted to him after criticizing the referees.
But Adamson got back at UP to end the season and giving the Maroons another 7-game losing slump.
Season 76 runnerup UST failed to enter the Final Four under new coach Bong Dela Cruz. Cameroonian workhorse Karim Abdul was vocal with his disappointment with his teammates after a series of close game losses but the Tigers never recovered from their bad season.
College hoops pundits predicted a possible first Ateneo-La Salle finals showdown in six years but the storied rivalry never came as both got eliminated in the Final Four.
NU clawed its way into the semifinals as the no. 4 seed by defeating season-host University of the East Red Warriors in its last elimination game to face top seed and holding a twice-to-beat advantage Ateneo.
Far Eastern U got the other Final Four incentive after a playoff against La Salle.
Both series went the distance with NU and FEU putting up games that deserve a place in the league’s list of most memorable moments when they ousted Ateneo and La Salle for a spot in the finals.
In the Ateneo-NU semis Game Two, a half an hour power interruption due to heavy rain outside the Big Dome delayed the Bulldogs’ date with destiny in the last 9.3 seconds with the Eagles behind by two.
When play resumed Ateneo gambled with giving the ball to season MVP Kiefer Ravena, who missed 18 of his 24 attempts in the game. Ravena drove hard, got past his initial defender and got a clear look at the basket for the equalizer but NU Cameroonian center Alfred Aroga cleanly erased his shot as the Bulldogs celebrate their first finals stint in 44 years.
FEU also had their moment of glory when Mac Belo drilled the biggest shot of his life.
With the game tied at 64 in the last 24.4 seconds remaining, FEU guard Mike Tolomia milked the clock from top of the key before making his move by driving right pulling a double defense before dishing the ball to Belo at the right corner for the buzzer-beating triple.
La Salle assistant coach Allan Caidic chased game officials up to their dugout pleading that there should be a 0.4 second remaining in the game but the referees denied his argument saying that the four-tenth of a second expired after the release of Belo.
It was the first championship since the start of the Final Four era two decades ago without Ateneo or La Salle and FEU coach Nash Racela called it the “best thing that ever happened in the UAAP.”
The series also went the full three and also set up the Big Dome's record-crowd of 25,138.
NU routed FEU to hoist their first title since 1954 in an emotional championship run that ended the league’s longest title drought.
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