INT'L ICE HOCKEY:  RP-LABEL 5  SCOTCH 3rd PLACE  /  PBA:  GABE  FREEMAN THE BEST

[PHOTO AT LEFT -
Adrian Mayers (middle) of Tokyo Canadians on the attack against Shanghai Red Guard defenders Bruce Crilly (15) and goalie Peter Hogan. The Tokyo Canadians won the title over Shanghai, 3-0. JUN MENDOZA MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, JULY 19, 2009 (STAR) By Abac Cordero - The Philippines, playing under the colors of Label 5 Scotch Whisky, got back at the Qatar Qanucks yesterday and claimed third place in the first Philippine International Ice Hockey Championship at the SM Mall of Asia Ice Skating Rink.

Winners of the Manila Ice Hockey League over the last two seasons, Label 5 scored the first goal of the match in the first of three periods courtesy of Allison Lapiz, but tinkered with defeat when it allowed Qatar to level up soon after.

With only five minutes left in the deciding period, Pierre Navasero, a 17-year-old son of Philippine Amateur Baseball Association president Hector Navasero, delivered the marginal goal to the delight of the appreciative weekend crowd.

“There was action right in front of the goal and sticks were all over. Then we scored and I got the credit for it,” said Navasero after Label 5’s third-place finish in the three-day tournament that also featured teams from Tokyo-BFF and Shanghai.

Tokyo-BFF (Bangkok Flying Fangers) went undefeated in four matches and won the championship with a 3-0 win over Shanghai.

Label 5 won three of five matches in the tournament and could have made it to the finals if not for a painful 2-1 defeat to Qatar Friday evening. Label 5 made it to the battle for third following a 4-1 win over the Manila Predators.

“It was a little frustrating because we could have played in the finals. But it was a very good match, very challenging, very nice,” said Label 5 team captain Mike Photiou, a 26-year-old Canadian and one of a handful expats in the 15-man squad.

The other members of the team are Dave Dunkerly, Darell Ashley, Paul Medina, Rudy Molina, Mark Ramos, Val Avendano, Keith Cole, Si Woo Park, Mark Seniuk, Florian Pacquelin, Justin Paragas and Anton Unalivia.

The 2009 Philippine National Figure Skating Challenge took off yesterday. The short program among the 40 skaters in the pre-juvenile (6-8 years), juvenile (12), intermediate (-14), novice (-15), junior (-17) and senior (+18) was on as of presstime.

At stake in the senior division are two slots (one for the men and another for the ladies) to the Nebelhom Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany in November. It serves as the final qualifying for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

In the short program, all skaters, including 10 Fil-Americans in the senior division where Anne Clarisse Roman is the only local entry, will perform the interpretive (mandatory maneuvers) leading to today’s long program (free style) finals.

All eyes seemed to be on Gracielle Tan, a California-based skater who turned 21 last Tuesday. In the ISU World Championships last March at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, she finished 29th in a star-studded field of 54 skaters.

But only the top 24 made it to the next Winter Olympics in February and Tan, who combines beauty and grace like the rest of the participants, just fell short of being the first Filipina skater ever to advance in the Olympics.

“I soaked in that experience and I will do my best to become the first Filipina ever in the Winter Olympics,” said Tan, who skates at 10:30 a.m. today, hopefully leading her to the finals proper that begins at 1:30 p.m.

Gabe proves worth SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson Updated July 19, 2009 12:00 AM

San Miguel Beer’s irrepressible Gabe Freeman proved beyond doubt he’s the best import in the PBA Fiesta Conference as he outplayed Ginebra’s highly touted David Noel in Games 6 and 7 that decided the Finals.

Noel, who played on the North Carolina team that won the 2005 NCAA title, shone brightly in Game 3 by compiling a rare triple double with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in 47 minutes.

Freeman didn’t look like he was in Noel’s class when he sputtered in Game 5, fouling out with 16 points in only 24 minutes. In that encounter, Noel delivered 29 points in 44 minutes as the Kings opened a 3-2 series lead, gaining a twice-to-beat advantage the rest of the way.

But Freeman, named Best Import before Game 2, was far from finished. San Miguel coach Siot Tanquingcen made key match-up adjustments and relieved Freeman of the burden of defending Noel from start to finish. Freeman still had his moments against Noel but Tanquingcen used a rotating crew that included Marc Pingris, Danny Ildefonso and Jay Washington, to wear down the Tar Heels star.

As it turned out, Freeman outscored Noel, 24-16, in Game 6 and 29-8 in Game 7 as San Miguel rebounded to sweep the last two outings for the championship. Noel, who was 0-of-5 from triple distance in the clincher, never knew what hit him. Freeman stole the show from the Ginebra import down the stretch.

Freeman, 23, never played NCAA Division I basketball unlike Noel and came in on San Miguel skills coach Alton Lister’s recommendation. He just finished a tour of duty with the Albany Patroons in the Continental league and reported for work in San Miguel’s second game this conference.

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Freeman wasn’t San Miguel’s original import choice. Nate Carter was but he was prevented from playing in the Beermen’s conference opener because of a technicality involving his previous club in France. Carter failed to secure his release from France, a FIBA requirement before moving on to another league.

With Carter out of the picture, Lister called in Freeman.

“Gabe played for Alton at Mesa Community College in Arizona so they knew each other,” said Tanquingcen.

But two games short of ending the eliminations, Tanquingcen brought in another import Chris Williams.

“There was never any doubt we would stick with Gabe,” he said. “But when Gabe got sick and we were safely in the semis, I remembered something coach Ron (Jacobs) told us at San Miguel when I was in his staff. We were winning with our import Nate Johnson but he asked the staff if we wanted to bring back Terq (Mott) who took us to a championship before. We decided to go with Nate and ended up losing to Tony Lang in the Finals. We never brought back Terq.”

Tanquingcen said even if the team is winning, a coach must always consider all his options.

“In Terq’s case, we wondered after we lost in the Finals, if he could’ve brought us the championship but it was too late,” he continued. “I didn’t want that to happen this conference. Alton spoke with Gabe about it. Of course, I’m sure he didn’t feel too good but we asked him to just take a few days off and rest while we see what Chris could do.”

Williams played two games for San Miguel then Freeman was reactivated to start the semifinals and never looked back.

Because of his inexperience, Freeman often couldn’t control himself in contact situations and got into early foul trouble. As the Finals progressed, he realized he was no good to Tanquingcen sitting on the bench and calmed down. In Game 6, he had three fouls and played 38 minutes. In Game 7, he had four fouls and logged 39 minutes.

Defense spelled the difference in both Games 6 and 7 which San Miguel won. Ginebra was held to 84 and .397 field goal shooting in Game 6 and 79 and .418 in Game 7. The Beermen clamped down on the Kings’ three-point shooting which was only 3-of-15 in the decider.

Jay-Jay Helterbrand played heroically in the clincher. Shrugging off pain in his hamstring, Helterbrand sucked it up and produced 25 points in 33 minutes. But he ran out of steam in the fourth period, adding only two free throws to his total. San Miguel was also more efficient on the floor, compiling an assist-to-turnover ratio of 21-to-15 compared to Ginebra’s 11-to-21.

San Miguel took over the driver’s seat, 4-3, early in the first quarter and Ginebra never regained the lead. The Beermen opened a pair of 17-point cushions, 61-44 and 63-46, in the third period then coasted to win convincingly, 90-79. The closest the Kings got from 17 down was at 76-69 on Rafi Reavis’ twinner midway the fourth quarter.

Tanquingcen said there’s no such thing as jinxing Ginebra coach Joseph Uichico. In three playoff series so far, Tanquingcen has never lost to Uichico. Could it be because Tanquingcen knows everything about Uichico as his long-time assistant at San Miguel and Ginebra? Uichico never worked under Tanquingcen so the familiarity isn’t as intimate the other way around.

“That’s not the case,” said Tanquingcen. “I’m nowhere near what coach Jong has accomplished. His record speaks for itself. He’s a real championship coach. When I’m coaching against him, I really learn much more. He forces me to think because he’s always a step ahead of you. He’s a big reason why San Miguel is what it is today.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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