FIBA World Cup cometh over
The STAR Sports Staff (The Philippine Star) - December 31, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — ‘Twas a year like no other, where heart-pounding feats more than made up for the heartbreaks in Phlippine sports, an odd mix of the best rising over the “blights” of defeats.

A good year it was with the nation being granted the right to host the Fiba World Cup with two other Asian nations and Filipino athletes breaching the wall of sporting excellence in bowling and billiards and keeping the reign in boxing.

A year like no other where record turnout stoked the fire of the nation’s fancied pastime and Filipino athletes battered in regional games only to come back and regain some measure of respect in other fronts.

Politics also reared its ugly head and prompted a court to nullify the election in the nation’s highest sports body; and a plain player deal turned into a high velocity controversy that opened a chasm in the very base of basketball pro league’s hierarchy.

It was a year of highs and lows in collegiate and varsity hoops.There was the mighty team in the collegiate corridor being ambushed in the title finale and archrivals clashing for hearts and minds in the varsity cage wars.

Then there was the Filipino boxing icon bloodied and battered and beaten Down Under.

In the end, it took the vision and passion of the No. 1 patron to bring home the World Cup, putting into focus the trust and confidence of the powerful international body to the managerial and hosting skills of Filipino officials and this has brought pride and joy to the Filipino sports fans and the nation itself to the very last day of 2017.

Here then are The STAR Sports Top 10 stories for 2017.

SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan spearheads the Phl-led consortium in bagging the hosting rights of the 2023 FIBA World Cup

1. World basketball is coming home

SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan wouldn’t be denied in his second attempt to bring the FIBA World Cup home to the Philippines. In 2015, MVP led a spirited Philippine campaign to host the 2019 FIBA World Cup and made it to the final reckoning but China won the vote on a 14-7 nod by the FIBA Central Board because of its vast resources and superior infrastructure. MVP, however, wasn’t fazed and made an even more determined effort to swing the hosting rights for the 2023 edition.

The bid was sweeter the second time around as MVP conceived a novel idea to gather three countries in a multi-nation initiative. The Philippines, Japan and Indonesia got together in a united stand using the slogans “The Power of Three” and “Play It Louder Than Ever.” SBP president Al Panlilio described the Philippine-led consortium’s case as compelling and convincing. The combined population of 500 million of the three countries was a strong argument to back up FIBA’s goal of growing the sport globally.

In the process of sorting out the bids, FIBA announced the withdrawal of Turkey and Russia as candidates, leaving the consortium and a two-nation offer by Argentina and Uruguay as the last two standing. FIBA invited the two finalists to make a 20-minute presentation to the FIBA Central Board before the voting at the FIBA headquarters in Mies, a town adjacent to Geneva in Switzerland, last Dec. 2. 

MVP left no stone unturned in producing a presentation anchored on three central principles – simplicity, diversity and intensity. “We have created simplicity in a tournament design to make sure the athletes and our sport are the focus,” said SBP executive director Sonny Barrios. “In diversity, a warm welcome is assured with our countries known for our hospitality, respect for cultural and religious differences and experience as popular tourist destinations. In intensity, the World Cup in Manila, Jakarta and Okinawa will be hugely popular – sell-out stadiums, an electric atmosphere and an explosion in social media.”

  MVP closed the presentation with an impassioned message: “Our approach represents the future of sports – a collaborative, shared hosting model, unlocking more value for FIBA and bringing our quadrennial event to more countries than ever before ... our deep love for basketball, our passion for the sport, is unequalled anywhere in the world ... basketball flows through our blood, pulses through our veins and animates our is what defines us, it is what unites us...we will play louder than ever.” The loudness of MVP’s message was resounding as the hashtag #PlayLouderIn2023 – the consortium’s battlecry in the bid war – rocketed to over 1.3 billion impressions on Twitter over the course of the campaign.

After the presentations, Argentina and Uruguay withdrew their bid, leaving the FIBA Central Board to award the rights to the consortium on a unanimous vote. “World basketball is coming home to the Philippines,” said MVP. “It’s an honor for our country to be chosen to host the World Cup and the single priceless legacy I could leave for Philippine basketball. I’m happy for our people. You should have seen how pleased the FIBA Central Board was to award the bid to us and to feel their very warm response to our bid team – hugs, handshakes, smiles, pats on the back, words of encouragement, all around...I was extremely proud to be Filipino at that moment.”

2. Krizziah Lyn Tabora – New queen of bowl

Krizziah Lyn Tabora ended the country’s long search for a bowling hero when she captured the 2017 World Cup crown in Hermosillo, Mexico last November.

Tabora subdued Malaysian Siti Safiyah Amirah Abdul Rahman, 232-196, in the stepladder finals to clinch her biggest career triumph and the Philippines’ first World Cup plum in 14 years.

Her astounding feat came as a big surprise to many, given the rise of the Malaysians, Qataris, Japanese and Koreans as superpowers from Asia. And it was just as stunning for the Filipinos, who could not even contend for a gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games and Asian Games, events which the country has a winning tradition.

In fact, Tabora has now won a singles championship on the international stage although she has racked up gold medals in doubles and team of five.

 She made it to the qualification round at No. 8 but worked her way to clinch No. 3 and advance to the semifinals with a total of 6,897 pinfalls after 40 games.

Tabora defeated Colombia’s Rocio Restrepo, 249-222, while Siti pulled off an upset win over the BWC’s defending champion Jenny Wegner of Sweden, 227-197, setting up a title clash between the third and fourth seeds.

Christian Suarez was the last Filipino to win a Bowling World Cup in 2003 but Tabora’s victory was the first for a Filipina since Bong Coo reigned in 1979.

Carlos Biado joins the elite World 9-ball winners

3. Carlo Biado finally nails 9-ball crown

For the longest time considered a bright prospect who’s always on the threshold of glory but never quite makes it there, Carlo Biado finally broke through and delivered according to his true potential. 

The former tee boy at Villamor ended years of near-misses and frustrations by copping the biggest prize in pool play – the world 9-ball crown – to join the pantheon of greats in the company of Efren Reyes, Django Bustamante and Ronnie Alcano.

Biado, 34, completed an undefeated run to the 2017 world diadem with a masterful 13-5 clincher in an all-Filipino finale versus Roland Garcia, capping a season filled with international feats.

Prior to the world meet held in Doha, Qatar, Biado ruled the World Games in Poland and the Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia before delivering a bronze in the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan.

Jerwin Ancajas defends the IBF junior bantamweight title three times

4. Make way for Jerwin Ancajas

An eight-year pro at 25, this southpaw from Panabo in Davao del Norte made a lot of heads turn in this year that’s about to end.

Jerwin Ancajas has introduced himself to the boxing world.

He won the IBF junior bantamweight crown in 2016 by beating Puerto Rico’s McJoe Arroyo in a world title fight staged in an obscure gym in Taguig City. Then he travelled the globe in 2017 to defend the title three times against Mexico’s Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in Macau, Japan’s Teiru Kinoshita in Brisbane and Irish Jamie Conlan in Belfast – all via stoppage.

Ancajas, who trains under Joven Jimenez in Imus, Cavite, caught the eye of the Top Rank chief Bob Arum, and immediately, was offered a six-fight deal he can’t refuse, also in partnership with his local promoter, MP Promotions of Manny Pacquiao.

“I want to be a great champion,” said Ancajas, who owns an impressive record of 28-1-1 with 19 knockouts.

On Feb. 3, he will make his US debut against Mexico’s Israel Gonzales in Corpus Christi in Texas. The fight will be carried by ESPN. It will be his real baptism of fire.

The expectations are high.

Top draftee Christian Standhardinger as the key figure in the controversial KIA-San Miguel Beer trade

5. PBA’s record turnout and controversial player deal

The PBA broke the P200-million mark in total gate receipts in its 2016-17 season, gaining a three-percent increase from its sales in the previous year as Barangay Ginebra and Meralco fought before record crowd after record crowd at the Philippine Arena in Games 5 to 7 of the Governors Cup finale.

Through the Governors Cup semifinal round, the PBA was down by 19 percent from the previous season sale.

The number skyrocketed and broke the P200-million ceiling as the Kings and the Bolts played before a staggering never-before-heard attendance of 144,173 – 36,445 in Game Five, 53,642 in Game Six and 54,086 in Game Seven.

If the average ticket price was P250, the league could easily earn over P36 million in those three games alone, making up for the dismal sale most of the season.

And majority of the fans savored the classic finale especially with crowd darling Barangay Ginebra ending up the winner and completing a first-ever title repeat.

Meanwhile, by February, the PBA will have a new commissioner as a result of the resignation of Chito Narvasa that ended a PBA crisis triggered by the unpopular San Miguel Beer-Kia trade deal that sent Fil-German hotshot Christian Standhardinger to the Beermen camp.

It was a contentious issue that prompted seven ball clubs to seek the commissioner’s ouster while five batted for status quo – the worst crisis the league had ever faced.

It caused a deep, bitter division within the board, shook the very foundation of Asia’s first play-for-pay league. In a stretch, it also put the opening of the new season in jeopardy.

But the impasse was resolved in time and the season – and the league – was saved as Narvasa resigned, PLDT/MVP Group top official Ricky Vargas agreed to return as league chairman while PBA external affairs chief Willie Marcial was appointed officer-in-charge.

6. Nationals finish 6th with low 24 SEAG golds

For the first time in 18 years, the Philippine contingent came home with only 24 gold medals for a sixth place finish in the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

That was 12 gold medals behind Indonesia (36), 21 behind Singapore (55), and more than twice behind Vietnam (58), former champion Thailand (62) and new champion Malaysia (129).

Its haul of 24-34-63 gold-silver-bronze medals came from 497 athletes who competed in 37 of 38 sports.

The 2017 contingent was led in the gold medal tally by athletics (5), billiards and snooker, boxing, gymnastics, taekwondo, triathlon and judo (two each) with one each from basketball, equestrian, fencing, ice hockey, lawn bowls, pencak silat and wushu. Among the zero performers for the gold were swimming, archery, bowling, cycling, figure skating, golf, karatedo, muay thai, lawn tennis, table tennis and wushu, who carried with them a deep, unresolved leadership crisis to the SEA Games.

7. Eagles storied UAAP win/Red Lions 10th title in 12 years

The Ateneo Blue Eagles spread their wings and soared to the top in UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball play.

With every personnel up to the last man diligently doing his share game in and game out, the Eagles came a win shy of scoring a rare 14-game sweep of the elims. They were pushed to the limit by a game Far Eastern U side in the Final Four and rival La Salle in the title series but passed the test with flying colors en route to copping their first crown since the end of the five-peat dynasty.

“It was a great season,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin. “From the start when we assembled a group of young guys and extended squad, we worked very, very hard on trying to be the best basketball players, better basketball coaches. We struggled together, we worked together, we learned together.”

Meanwhile for the 10th time in the last 12 years, the San Beda Red Lions are the kings of the NCAA. And the league’s best team – with 21 championships overall – did their latest feat in style.

They didn’t only sweep the Lyceum of the Philippines University side in the best-of-three finals but also foiled the Pirates’ bid for league immortality.

Lyceum barged straight into the championship brimming with confidence following a remarkable sweep of the double round eliminations. But San Beda showed its vast championship experience and played with so much poise in both stretches of Games 1 (94-87) and 2 (92-82) to snare the crown.

Cameroonian Donald Tankoua powered his way to a 17-point, 17-rebound effort in the clincher to likewise clinch the Finals MVP honors. He normed 22 points and 18.5 boards in the series.

Robert Bolick, on the other hand, poured in nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter following a 24-point performance in the series’ opener.

For Lyceum, it hopes to come out better from that setback that put to naught all their hard work and sacrifices that netted them 18 straight victories in the elims.

In fact, CJ, the season MVP, has decided to forego his PBA bid and try to complete an unfinished business with the Pirates next season.

8. Fajardo 4-time PBA MVP winner

After nailing a record third straight PBA MVP award in 2016, San Miguel Beer star center June Mar Fajardo further raised the bar in stretching his reign to four successive PBA seasons.

Fajardo led the honor rolls in the 2017 PBA Leo Awards and thus joined legends Ramon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio in the elite list of four-time PBA MVP winners.

But the Cebuano behemoth earned his MVP plums in an amazing record pace, winning it in four straight years and becoming a four-time winner only at 27 and in his fifth season in the league.

Fernandez, who used to be the yardstick of greatness in the league, harvested his four MVP plums over a period of 13 years, the last with San Miguel in 1988. He bagged his first three precious wares in 1982 with Toyota, 1984 with Beer Hausen and 1986 with Tanduay.

Meanwhile, Patrimonio, the brightest PBA star in the 90s, completed his own quadruple MVP feat in nine years, winning the coveted individual award in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997 all with Purefoods.

But Fajardo topped them all – and with the SMB stalwart in his prime, he is expected to rake in more MVP plums in the new few years.

9. Pacquiao dethroned in Brisbane

Manny Pacquiao walked into the packed Brisbane Stadium on a cold day in July not knowing he’d be in for a rough sailing against a former schoolteacher named Jeff Horn.

Pacquiao was the hands-down favorite. Everyone hoped for a knockout. One of his handlers said the only way he could lose the fight is if he trips on his way to the ring.

They were wrong.

Horn, bigger and heavier, threw his weight inside the ring, and took Pacquiao from his rhythm. But in the ninth round, the Filipino senator turned things around, and the Australian was on the verge of going down. But he survived the round, and the fight went the distance.

All three judges gave the fight to Horn, who was declared the new WBO welterweight champion, even when fight experts and the official punch stats thought and showed that Pacquiao, as the champion, did enough to win the fight.

It was a controversial decision, and the WBO ordered a re-scoring of the fight, naming five neutral judges. But the result did not change. Three judges gave Horn the victory, one for Pacquiao and the other scored in a draw.

10. Court rules POC polls  ‘null and void’

Jose “Peping” Cojuangco’s fourth tenure as president of the Philippine Olympic Committee faced a big question mark when a Pasig City judge recently ruled the Nov. 25, 2016 POC elections “null and void.”

The court also ordered the holding of new elections on Feb. 23 for the positions of president and chairman, and that boxing chief Ricky Vargas and cycling head Abraham Tolentino be allowed to run.

The two officials were barred from joining the elections after the POC Comelec ruled that they were not qualified – for failure to meet requirement on being an active member of the POC.

Vargas and Tolentino had sought a TRO (temporary restraining order) for the November polls, but the court denied the motion.

Cojuangco ran unopposed, and got 26 votes from the 40 qualified voters.

It did not end there because Vargas and company pursued the legal battle. And 13 months after, the court ruled in their favor, saying the POC “acted beyond its power” when it ruled the disqualification.

“Finally, we obtained justice,” Vargas declared.

Cojuangco is expected to file a motion for reconsideration, and should hope that a decision is handed down before the date of the new elections.

Everything is up in the air.

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