MANILA, JULY 26, 2007
(STAR) Fil-Am Gabe Norwood had to attend to a last-minute travel glitch that had him cutting short a workout to rush to the Japanese Embassy for further interview before joining the San Miguel-Pilipinas team as it left for the 24th FIBA-Asia Men’s Championship yesterday.

Norwood, a key figure in the national team’s bid to earn a berth in the Olympic Games in Beijing after 35 years, secured a clearance from the Justice department, obtained a Philippine passport from the Foreign Affairs Office late Monday and applied for an entry visa to Japan Tuesday.

Norwood was granted one yesterday morning, but only after assistant coach Aboy Castro pulled him out of team practice at the Sportskamp at The Fort and drove him to the Japanese Embassy to answer a few more questions.

The Nationals left for Japan at 2:30 p.m., taking a Philippine Airlines flight to Kansai International Airport in Osaka. They will take a two-hour bus ride from there to reach Tokushima.

“I wasn’t really sure I’d be able to join the team,” said Norwood at the Centennial Terminal. “I thought I had everything completed yesterday (Tuesday). I thought I was done. I sort of jumped into the car with coach Aboy and sped off to the embassy in the middle of practice,” he said.

Norwood said he was relieved his travel woes were behind him so “I can fully concentrate on helping the team get to Beijing. That’s my main focus.”

National coach Chot Reyes thanked the Japanese embassy for expediting the issuance of Norwood’s visa.

“At least we’re leaving the country with a full complement of 15 players,” Reyes said. “It somehow lessens the uncertainties because everybody knows the value of Norwood and the versatility that he gives to the team.”

SMC-RP takes on Iran, defending champion China and Jordan in the preliminary round of the FIBA-Asia, and could run smack into Japan and three more group qualifiers in the quarterfinal round.

Knights upend Red Lions in thrilla Thursday, July 26, 2007

(STAR) Rey Guevarra scored six unanswered points in the closing minute, including the go-ahead basket with 3.2 seconds left as Letran dealt San Beda College its first loss with a thrilling 70-69 win last night to force a two-way tie at the helm at the end of the first round of the 83rd NCAA men’s basketball tournament last night at The Arena in San Juan.

Guevarra finished with only seven points but all came when it mattered most for the Knights, including a pair of crucial baskets underneath off Nigerian slotman Sam Ekwe that lifted the Knights to the big victory, their fifth against a loss.

“It was 40 minutes of tremendous basketball and even if we had won, San Beda remains the team to beat. We were able to execute two plays down the stretch,” said Letran mentor Louie Alas.

Pong Escobal’s jumper in the last 19.5 seconds gave San Beda its last taste of the lead, 69-68.

That shot was later contested by Lions coach Frankie Lim, who insisted it was a trey. But after a review of the video tape, commissioner Chito Narvasa ruled the shot was only a two-pointer.

Dino Daa had 14 points and nine rebounds while Bryan Faundo added 12 markers for the Knights.

Escobal wound 17 points for the Red Lions, who struggled in the second half as Ekwe got into early foul trouble.

Earlier, James Sena scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds while John Wilson and Marvin Hayes registered double-double performances as Jose Rizal University downed College of St. Benilde, 74-63.

The win, the Bombers second straight, also put the host school in a two-way tie for third with the San Sebastian Stags with 3-3 cards.

The Blazers, meanwhile, dropped to 1-5 after absorbing their fifth straight defeat.

Wilson made 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Hayes chipped in 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Bombers.

“It’s nice to win back-to-back for the first time, it‘s a good sign going into the second round. We are aiming higher and we are peaking at the right time,” said JRU coach Ariel Vanguardia.

JRU thus moved closer to matching the four wins it posted last season.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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