2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup: Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas now 2-1

After 3 straight games, it’s a rest day today for the Philippine men’s basketball team that’s competing in Chenzhou, China — where Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas first won against BC Astana (73-65) then lost to Sareyyet Ramallah (82-89) before winning yesterday against Thailand’s Mono Vampire BC (115-102).

Next game would be tomorrow, September 26 at 9:45PM, against Petrochimi of Iran. And since we have already talked about the Filipinos against the Kazakhs, let’s now get on to their recent two games.

82-89 AGAINST SAREYYET RAMALLAH

While it was good to see two other guys, Jeron Teng (5/12) and Carl Bryan Cruz (3/11) — other than Isaiah Austin and Kiefer Ravena — firing more than 10 shots in their game, their assists were still low at only 10. More so, while most areas were as close as it could be — the Palestinians were actually the ones ahead on those stats. And Chooks-to-Go can’t just blame poor 3-point shooting (PHL 5/28, PLE 10/26) because they even had more free throws (PHL 23/30, PLE 11/16) compared to their opponent — so that cancels out the downtown percentage excuse.

In short, the Philippines lost simply because the Palestinians had control of the ball game even as the time one was leading explains it — which was 35 minutes of the way for Sareyyet as to only 3 minutes by Chooks-to-Go.

115-102 AGAINST MONO VAMPIRE BC

It’s amazing that the Philippines beat the Thais who defeated the Palestinians who were the conquerors of the Filipinos. Did you get it? What a merry-go-round! But that’s how it has been, one night you’re cold, next day you’re hot.

This stuff was in full display in Carl Bryan Cruz who was just 3-of-11 against the Palestinians but was red hot against the Thais shooting 8-of-11 from 3s. And with 4 of their players in double figures, with 3 even in the 20s, it didn’t really matter here if the Filipinos had 19 turnovers as they had their highest assist total so far with 22 while having more points in the paint 46-32.

All these only confirmed why they led for 39 minutes of the game.. and won.

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2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Qualification (AVC) Latest

Today is the last day of the qualifiers for the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship to be held in Japan which would run from Sep 29 to Oct 20, 2018.

This qualifiers actually started last September 20 with 2 pools composed of 5 teams each with Japan taking a bye being the host of the 2018 tournament.

2018 AVC Qualifiers

At any rate, the qualifiers have already been determined since yesterday after China, South Korea and Thailand notched their third straight win, respectively — leaving today’s matches as just for formality’s sake.

And so, let’s just check out on each of the three teams’ highlights.

As for today’s schedule, here goes..

September 24 Schedules

While the China against Chinese Taipei game is an obvious overmatch, the match between Thailand and South Korea would prove to be interesting — just hope they’d play competitively even if this is already a no-bearing game.

2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup: Could the Philippines go all the way?

In case you are not aware and as of this writing, the Philippines represented by Chooks-to-Go is playing Sareyyet Ramallah of Palestine in the FIBA Asia Qualifiers at the Chenzhou Sports Center, China. The tourney is composed of 10 teams and will run from September 22 to 30.

The Filipinos, bannered by import Isaiah Austin, have just won their opener last night against Kazakhstan’s BC Astana, 73-65. It was quite a tight game through-out where we saw just poor shooting from both sides and Austin somehow leaving his mark with 17 points, 18 rebounds and 6 blocks.

WHY KAZAKHSTAN LOST

Despite Austin’s 18 boards, the Kazakhs actually out-rebounded the Filipinos 47-33 and even had more assists 15-8 while also leading at some point in the game. Then again, with the 7-foot-1 Austin manning the middle, the Kazakhs just could not shake off that intimidation factor as they just made 10 less points in the paint while committing 15 turnovers leading to 13 fast break points for the pesky Filipinos.

All these plus the huge difference in free throws as the Philippines shot 15 of 22 compared to just 9 free throw attempts by Kazakhstan — while making only 5 of them — led to their defeat.

HOW DID THE PINOYS REALLY FARE

Yes, the Philippines won and diehards all over the country are celebrating — yet how did they really fare? Okay, this is not their best team — many were even disappointed with the Teng brothers — but then, most participants also didn’t send their A-team. Still, much is to be desired.

For one, ball distribution. The Philippines only had 8 assists for the whole game?! And only Kiefer Ravena, aside from Isaiah Austin, had more than 10 field goal attempts. Hey, from the looks of it, Jett Manuel is really their best scorer who still had 10 points despite just having 7 attempts. Now just look carefully, Manuel has better foot work while Ravena is actually slow and not that athletic — however, opponents just do not (or don’t know how to) play defense. And so, because he attempts a lot, he eventually scores.

Isaiah Austin? While he had sterling numbers last night, if you analyze them — something’s just wrong. 33 percent field goal? 5-of-15 shooting? Yes, he had nine free throw attempts to speak for his game but he just lacks power. It’s a surprise that Coach Chot Reyes even compared him to Golden State’s JaVale McGee, guess that was an overstatement. McGee is much stronger and more athletic while Austin is like a slow forward inside a center’s body, err, height. Notice how soft his blocks were — or his dunks during practice?

Jett Manuel

To be more competitive, how about more touches for Manuel and LA Revilla?

2017 FIBA EuroBasket: The Decline of Spain and the Finals’ Forecast

Today is the last day of the 2017 FIBA EuroBasket which started last August 31; and with more than a handful of NBA players also suiting up for their national teams, it’s been a heck of a show in these host countries.

Okay, in case you failed to follow the action, the Finals would be played a couple of hours from now between Serbia and Slovenia at Sinan Erden Dome, Istanbul after these two teams triumphed in their semifinal matchups against Russia and Spain, respectively.

But wait, Spain, with 6 NBA players on its roster lost to Slovenia? And not just by a hair but they got routed — 72-92! Wow! Why, what happened?

First. It was just the night of Slovenia as the ball just kept falling from all over the court. Second. Spain sorely missed Rudy Fernandez and Nikola Mirotic. Third. They have just gotten older and could not keep up especially without Fernandez and Mirotic in the rotation. Fourth. More than just being lucky, Slovenia just had better shooters. Fifth. Slovenia simply had gotten a good reinforcement in Anthony Randolph who fit in to what they want to do.

In short, Slovenia’s Big 3 of Goran Dragic, Luka Doncic and Randolph proved too much for the Gasol brothers and the rest of the Spaniards. And now with five of their players already in their 30’s and we are not even counting their missing players — Fernandez (32), Jose Calderon (35) and Sergio Llull (30 by November) — we could say that Spain’s golden years in basketball is now officially on the decline.

The Finals: SERBIA v SLOVENIA

This would be like Serbia’s one-two punch in Bogdan Bogdanovic and Boban Marjanovic against Slovenia’s starting five — or rather, almost five who are averaging double figures. It’s the inside game of Serbia against the outside shooting of Slovenia. While Bogdanovic and Dragic could cancel each other out, the key then would be Serbia’s Marjanovic. But because Marjanovic is only playing 16 minutes a game and Slovenia has 4 guys shooting over 40 percent from threes against only 1 for Serbia, we would give the game’s advantage to Slovenia.

(L-R) Milan Macvan, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Boban Marjanovic of Serbia

Still, whoever adjusts in time would pocket the 2017 EuroBasket.

2017 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Grand Champions Cup: China is Champ and the Awarding Blunder

It’s been three days since the conclusion of the Grand Champions Cup in Nagoya, Japan where the Chinese emerged as the champs even before their final game against the Japanese.

Now, this was so as the Chinese remained as the only undefeated team heading towards their last game — that even if they lose to the Japanese, they would still be crowned champions since they would still be 1 win ahead of second placer Brazil. Still, the Chinese proved to be worthy champions as they completed the sweep against the hosts.

2017 World Grand Champions Cup MVP: Zhu Ting

And well, what else is new? Chinese star Zhu Ting once again dominated the competition en route to two deserving awards — Best Outside Hitter and of course, the MVP plum. My, we’d be seeing more of her since she’s just 22!

Final Standing and Awards

While we do understand that it’s natural for host countries to include some of their own players when it comes to awarding — this should not be ‘too much’. Instead, priority should always be given to the Top Four finishers of any FIVB-sanctioned tournament for that matter.

Sadly in this case, the Russian volleybelles were skipped of the recognition and instead two awards were given to the Japanese — Best Setter and Best Libero. Sure, the Japanese are good but organizers could have at least given one of those awards to the Russians — after all, not only were the Russians ahead in points but they even beat the Japanese in their own encounter.

Russia beat Japan 22-25, 25-18, 25-22, 28-26

Fortunately for Japan, tho they were a point behind Russia, they got a higher ratio over their competition which could be used to justify their awards.

Anyway, this awarding oversight though reminds us of the recent AVC held in Biñan, Laguna where the Philippines’ Dawn Macandili got the nod as the 2nd Best Libero despite the country finishing way down at number 8. Wow! This is an obvious boner that it’s like a conspiracy!

2017 AVC Final Standings and Awards (Aug 9-17, Philippines)

More so, one could even question the award-giving body (or the Philippine organizers) as to how come Chatchu-on and Hattaya edged out their better teammates — Ajcharaporn Kongyot (Thailand’s best spiker) and Pleumjit Thinkaow (Thailand’s best middle blocker) — for their respective awards. This is a performance award, not a favorite player award — come on!

Stop this ‘host-favored’ trend before it drags down the awarding reputation.

2017 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Grand Champions Cup: Japan already preparing for the 2020 Olympics??

We are currently in a one day break from the ongoing World Grand Champions Cup in Tokyo and Nagoya, Japan. It’s actually just a short 6-day tournament (September 5-10) which features the top regional women’s volleyball teams the world over, namely: China, Russia, the US, Brazil, Korea and Japan.

And so far after 2 games each, 4 teams are knotted at 1-1 each with Korea as the only winless team and China slotted on the other end of the table with a 2-0 card. These 6 initial games were played at Tokyo while the remaining 9 games would be played in Nagoya, Japan. Well, let’s get on with the hosts.

Tokyo Round results

JAPAN v KOREA

Against Korea, the Japanese won in straight sets 25-23, 25-21, 26-24. Obviously, the scores speaks for itself; yes, it may have been a sweep but it was a struggle for Japan — mainly because of Korea’s #7 Lee Jae-yeong who really stepped up in the absence of star spiker Kim Yeon-koung.

Japan’s Rika Nomoto spikes one against the Korean defense

Then again, the Japanese were also without Sarina Koga and Haruka Miyashita which then sort of leveled the field. Anyway, we just noticed that the Koreans were still quite the same tho in their lack of flexibility and just basically relied on height (and Kim Yeon-koung) like in many of their games.

Japan, meanwhile, banked on the power of Rika Nomoto with the help of Risa Shinnabe. Still, we were just wondering why Yuki Ishii was not getting enough playing time then when she is one of the better players in their roster.

RUSSIA v JAPAN

The following day, we saw the Japanese losing in 4 sets 22-25, 25-18, 25-22, 28-26 as the Russians just proved to be too tall for the hosts to overcome. But hey, tho the Russians looked like herons on the court, they move well!

They weren’t unsteady as the Japanese just found it hard to penetrate the Russian wall of #21 Ekaterina Efimova, #15 Tatiana Kosheleva and #14 Irina Fetisova while countering with bombs mainly from #8 Nataliya Goncharova.

Nagoya Round schedule

In the end, the Japanese should have learned from this match — that is on how to beat height — as they are clearly preparing for the next Olympics!

Notice? The current roster of Japan which they also fielded in the recent World Grand Prix does not have any player in their 30’s, the oldest being a couple of players aged 28. Meaning, they excluded players — no matter how good they are — who would be over 30 come the 2020 Olympics.

Saori Sakoda (L) and Kimura Saori (R) reacts after losing in the QF of the 2016 Olympics

Okay, Koyomi Tominaga is 28 but she’s a setter while Arisa Sato is a libero — like, they won’t be strained too much just as reserve middle blocker Ayaka Matsumoto would, too. This brings us to the conclusion why super spiker Saori Sakoda (‘Air Rio’) who’d be turning 30 in 3 months wasn’t included in this year’s lineup — and which also made us wonder if star captain Kimura Saori (who just turned 31 last August) was just forced to retire due to the policy of the Japan Volleyball Association. Hmm.

Shouldn’t they check on health, skills and interest first before deciding?

2017 US Open: Maria Sharapova’s amazing run is over

After three straight wins, the former US Open champion’s comeback is over as Russia’s Maria Sharapova lost to Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova in 3 sets — 7-5, 4-6, 2-6. World number 16 Sevastova would now face unseeded American Sloane Stephens who won her fourth round match against world number 30 Julia Goerges of Germany 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

So, what happened to Sharapova? Let’s have a look.

More than facing a 16th seed, Sharapova obviously got beaten because of her 51 unforced errors compared to Sevastova’s 14. Now, what does this mean? Practice and fatigue. Since she’s been out for more than a year, she clearly hasn’t really had competitive practice or matches which then contributed to her stamina and timing. Hey, your game will always be there, it’s in your subconscious, in your reflexes — but timing is key to these.

So, Sharapova could have lost to any player in that match who tried to make her run all over the court. See, without stamina, her howls became deeper as she expended her energy just to win the first set 7-5, tried to be competitive in the second set 4-6 — and where she just lost gas come the third 2-6.

World number 16 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia

Sevastova Analysis. Anastasija simply did the right thing that anyone (facing a basically inactive opponent) would do, just run Maria to the ground. That’s it. Anastasija just played the basics well on this one.