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Coaching great John Thompson of Georgetown dead at 78

By JOSEPH WHITE AP Sports Writer WASHINGTON (AP) — John Thompson, the imposing Hall of Famer who turned Georgetown into a “Hoya Paranoia” powerhouse and became the first Black coach to lead a team to the NCAA men’s basketball championship, has died. He was 78 His death was announced in a family statement released by Georgetown on Monday. No details were disclosed. “Our father was an inspiration to many and devoted his life to developing young people not simply on but, most importantly, off the basketball court. He is revered as a historic shepherd of the sport, dedicated to the welfare of his community above all else,” the statement said. “However, for us, his greatest legacy remains as a father, grandfather, uncle, and friend. More than a coach, he was our foundation. More than a legend, he was the voice in our ear everyday.” One of the most celebrated and polarizing figures in his sport, Thompson took over a moribund Georgetown program in the 1970s and molded it in his unique style into a perennial contender, culminating with a national championship team anchored by center Patrick Ewing in 1984. Georgetown reached two other title games with Thompson in charge and Ewing patrolling the paint, losing to Michael Jordan’s North Carolina team in 1982 and to Villanova in 1985. At 6-foot-10, with an ever-present white towel slung over his shoulder, Thompson literally and figuratively towered over the Hoyas for decades, becoming a patriarch of sorts after he quit coaching in 1999. One of his sons, John Thompson III, was hired as Georgetown’s coach in 2004. When the son was fired in 2017, the elder Thompson -- known affectionately as “Big John” or “Pops” to many -- was at the news conference announcing Ewing as the successor. Along the way, Thompson said what he thought, shielded his players from the media and took positions that weren’t always popular. He never shied away from sensitive topics -- particularly the role of race in both sports and society -- and he once famously walked off the court before a game to protest an NCAA rule because he felt it hurt minority athletes. “I’ll probably be remembered for all the things that kept me out of the Hall of Fame, ironically, more than for the things that got me into it,” Thompson said on the day he was elected to the Hall in 1999. Thompson became coach of the Hoyas in 1972 and began remaking a team that was 3-23 the previous season. Over the next 27 years, he led Georgetown to 14 straight NCAA tournaments (1979-92), 24 consecutive postseason appearances (20 NCAA, 4 NIT), three Final Fours (1982, 1984, 1985) and won six Big East tournament championships. Employing a physical, defense-focused approach that frequently relied on a dominant center -- Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo were among his other pupils -- Thompson compiled a 596-239 record (.715 winning percentage). He had 26 players drafted by the NBA. One of his honors -- his selection as coach of the U.S. team for the 1988 Olympics -- had a sour ending when the Americans had to settle for the bronze medal. It was a result so disappointing that Thompson put himself on a sort of self-imposed leave at Georgetown for a while, coaching practices and games but leaving many other duties to his assistants. Off the court, Thompson was both a role model and a lightning rod. A stickler for academics, he kept a deflated basketball on his desk, a reminder to his players that a degree was a necessity because a career in basketball relied on a tenuous “nine pounds of air.” The school boasted that 76 of 78 players who played four seasons under Thompson received their degrees. He was a Black coach who recruited mostly Black players to a predominantly white Jesuit university in Washington, and Thompson never hesitated to speak out on behalf of his players. One of the most dramatic moments in Georgetown history came on Jan. 14, 1989, when he walked off the court to a standing ovation before the tipoff of a home game against Boston College, demonstrating in a most public way his displeasure against NCAA Proposition 42. The rule denied athletic scholarships to freshmen who didn’t meet certain requirements, and Thompson said it was biased against underprivileged students. Opposition from Thompson, and others, led the NCAA to modify the rule. Thompson’s most daring move came that same year, when he summoned notorious drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III for a meeting in the coach’s office. Thompson warned Edmond to stop associating with Hoyas players and to leave them alone, using his respect in the Black community to become one of the few people to stare down Edmond and not face a reprisal. Though aware of his influence, Thompson did not take pride in becoming the first Black coach to take a team to the Final Four, and he let a room full of reporters know it when asked his feelings on the subject at a news conference in 1982. “I resent the hell out of that question if it implies I am the first Black coach competent enough to take a team to the Final Four,” Thompson said. “Other Blacks have been denied the right in this country; coaches who have the ability. I don’t take any pride in being the first Black coach in the Final Four. I find the question extremely offensive.” Born Sept. 2, 1941, John R. Thompson Jr. grew up in Washington, D.C. His father was always working — on a farm in Maryland and later as a laborer in the city — and could neither read nor write. “I never in my life saw my father’s hands clean,” Thompson told The Associated Press in 2007. “Never. He’d come home and scrub his hands with this ugly brown soap that looked like tar. I thought that was the color of his hands. When I was still coaching, kids would show up late for practice and I’d (say) ... ‘My father got up every morning of his life at 5 a.m. to go to work. Without an alarm.‘” Thompson’s parents emphasized education, but he struggled in part of because of poor eyesight and labored in Catholic grammar school. He was moved to a segregated public school, had a growth spurt and became good enough at basketball to get into John Carroll, a Catholic high school, where he led the team to 55 consecutive victories and two city titles. He went to Providence College as one of the most touted basketball prospects in the country and led the Friars to the first NCAA bid in school history. He graduated in 1964 and played two seasons with Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics, earning a pair of championship rings as a sparingly used backup to Bill Russell. Thompson returned to Washington, got his master’s degree in guidance and counseling from the University of the District of Columbia and went 122-28 over six seasons at St. Anthony’s before accepting the job at Georgetown, an elite school that had relatively few Black students. Faculty and students rallied around him after a bedsheet with racist words was hung inside the school’s gym before a game during the 1974-75 season. Thompson sheltered his players with closed practices, tightly controlled media access and a prohibition on interviews with freshmen in their first semester -- a restriction that still stands for Georgetown’s basketball team. Combined with Thompson’s flashes of emotion and his players’ rough-and-tumble style of play, it wasn’t long before the words “Hoya Paranoia” came to epitomize the new era of basketball on the Hilltop campus. Georgetown lost the 1982 NCAA championship game when Fred Brown mistakenly passed the ball to North Carolina’s James Worthy in the game’s final seconds. Two years later, Ewing led an 84-75 win over Houston in the title game. The Hoyas were on the verge of a repeat the following year when they were stunned in the championship game by coach Rollie Massimino’s Villanova team in one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. Success allowed Thompson to rake in money through endorsements, but he ran afoul of his Georgetown bosses when he applied for a gambling license for a business venture in Nevada in 1995. Thompson, who liked playing the slot machines in Las Vegas, reluctantly dropped the application after the university president objected. Centers Ewing, Mourning and Mutombo turned Georgetown into “Big Man U” under Thompson, although his last superstar was guard Allen Iverson, who in 1996 also became the first player under Thompson to leave school early for the NBA draft. “Thanks for Saving My Life Coach,” Iverson wrote at the start of an Instagram post Monday with photos of the pair. The Hoyas teams in the 1990s never came close to matching the achievements of the 1980s, and Thompson’s era came to a surprising and sudden end when he resigned in the middle of the 1998-99 season, citing distractions from a pending divorce. Thompson didn’t fade from the limelight. He became a sports radio talk show host and a TV and radio game analyst, joining the very profession he had frustrated so often as a coach. He loosened up, allowing the public to see his lighter side, but he remained pointed and combative when a topic mattered to him. A torch was passed in 2004, when John Thompson III became Georgetown’s coach. The younger Thompson, with “Pops” often watching from the stands or sitting in the back of the room for news conferences, returned the Hoyas to the Final Four in 2007. Another son, Ronny Thompson, was head coach for one season at Ball State and is now a TV analyst. ___ Joseph White, a former AP sports writer in Washington who died in 2019, prepared this obituary. AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnNov 15th, 2020

Trailblazing coach Thompson dies at 78

John Thompson, who made history as the first black coach to win a US national college basketball championship when he led Georgetown to the title in 1984, has died, his family said Monday. He was 78. Thompson, who played a pioneering role in advancing black coaches, also helped develop the careers of several NBA stars […] The post Trailblazing coach Thompson dies at 78 appeared first on Daily Tribune......»»

Category: newsSource:  tribuneRelated NewsSep 1st, 2020

Lapu-Lapu lost 3 gallant sons in C-130 crash

LAPU-LAPU CITY, Philippines — The mother of Staff Sergeant Jan Niel Macapaz could hardly shed a tear even if she was in great mourning, as she reminisces the memories of her dead son. Macapaz was among 49 military personnel who died when a C-130 cargo plane crashed in Patikol, Sulu on Sunday, July 4, 2021. […] The post Lapu-Lapu lost 3 gallant sons in C-130 crash appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJul 6th, 2021

Fiscal response: Keynes is turning in his grave

The great British economist John Maynard Keynes must have stirred in his grave when Congress began discussing the first of the two Bayanihan Acts......»»

Category: newsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsJun 7th, 2021

China’s great power ambitions

Several books, including John Mearsheimer’s The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, have shown that throughout history, Great Powers have always tried to achieve regional hegemony......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 22nd, 2021

2 more dead in Surigao Norte sea mishap

The bodies of two more crewmembers of the cargo ship LCT Cebu Great Ocean that ran aground off the coast of Malimono, Surigao del Norte, have been recovered......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsApr 24th, 2021

Payo ni John Lloyd kay Joshua, wag magpaapekto sa kanegahan: Create a great life for yourself

PINAYUHAN ng nagbabalik-showbiz na si John Lloyd Cruz ang young actor na si Joshua Garcia na huwag masyadong intindihin ang mga kanegahan sa kanyang paligid. Marami ang nagsasabi na si Joshua raw ang pwedeng sumunod sa mga yapak ni Lloydie bilang isa sa mga pambatong leading man ng ABS-CBN dahil sa husay nitong magpakilig at […] The post Payo ni John Lloyd kay Joshua, wag magpaapekto sa kanegahan: Create a great life for yourself appeared first on Bandera......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsFeb 26th, 2021

All of this Netflix series looks like Dead to Me

When drama turns into comedy, really great shows come out. Last updated 02/09/2021 16:44 The Successes On broadcast platforms, this can also be extrapolated to.....»»

Category: newsSource:  thedailyguardianRelated NewsFeb 9th, 2021

Pole vault great joins Obiena in Berlin meet

This time around, Tokyo Olympics-bound Ernest John “EJ” Obiena will not be alone when he competes in the men’s pole of the  Internationales Stadionfest in Berlin......»»

Category: sportsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsFeb 3rd, 2021

Suns& rsquo; playing/coaching icon Westphal dead at 70

Los Angeles---Paul Westphal, who won an NBA title with Boston and became an icon over 14 seasons as a player and coach for the Phoenix Suns, has died. He was 70......»»

Category: sportsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsJan 3rd, 2021

Gunman shot dead after NY concert

NEW YORK (AFP) — A man was shot dead by police after he opened fire near crowds who had gathered to watch carol-singing outside a New York church on Sunday. New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea said no one was injured during the shooting on the steps of the Cathedral of St John the Divine […] The post Gunman shot dead after NY concert appeared first on Daily Tribune......»»

Category: newsSource:  tribuneRelated NewsDec 15th, 2020

Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse dead at 85 — agent

LONDON — Dave Prowse, the British actor behind the menacing black mask of Star Wars villain Darth Vader, has died, his agent Thomas Bowington said Sunday. “It’s with great sadness that we have to announce that our client Dave Prowse… passed away yesterday morning at the age of 85,” Bowington wrote on Facebook. /MUF The post Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse dead at 85 — agent appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsNov 29th, 2020

Criminology instructor electrocuted

  BY LIEZLE BASA INIGO     PANGASINAN – A criminology instructor died after he got electrocuted while atop a metal scaffolding in Barangay Lebueg, Laoac town. Police Captain Rez Gerome Cachin, officer-in-charge of Laoac Police, said John Repoyo, 30, of Sitio Pudo, San Felipe Central, Binalonan, Pangasinan was declared dead on arrival at the […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsNov 3rd, 2020

Japeth flashes old grit as Gin Kings stay clean

Japeth Aguilar scored 20 points for his best outing so far inside the bubble. (PBA Images) Japeth Aguilar and LA Tenorio showed signs of slowly regaining their form Sunday night as Barangay Ginebra San Miguel rolled past Meralco 105-91 for its third straight win in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center. Struggling since entering the bubble days before the start of the season, Aguilar and Tenorio played important roles in Ginebra taking control of the first meeting with Meralco since winning the Governors’ Cup crown last January. Aguilar scored 20 points as coach Tim Cone opted to field him even when the game was already in the bag while Tenorio scored all six points in the second quarter while dishing out four assists as the Kings rejoined the TNT Tropang Giga and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on top of the standings. Stanley Pringle continued his consistent showing for Ginebra with 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists, Jeff Chan had 12 points and four assists while rookie Arvin Tolentino posted a season-high 11 points in a starting role. It was only the second time that Ginebra started a conference with a 3-0 record since coach Tim Cone took over in the 2015-16 season. Like in the Governors’ Cup Finals, Ginebra was able to take control against a Meralco squad that fell to 1-2 which Cone cited for the way his team’s defensive effort. “I just think that it was really a great defensive effort tonight,” said Cone, who also thought that Ginebra “created a lot of our offense up on our defense.” The lopsided nature of the contest also allowed Cone to insert veteran Mark Caguioa to make his bubble debut and in the process set a PBA record. Caguioa played more than six minutes and scored a basket in the game that made him break the record for most seasons by a player for one team. The 40-year-old officially played his 18th season for Ginebra, breaking his tie with Purefoods legend Alvin Patrimonio and current TNT forward Harvey Carey. Allein Maliksi scored 18 points and Reynel Hugnatan had 16 points and seven boards for Meralco in the loss. Raymond Almazan, whose knee injury during Game 3 contributed to Meralco’s defeat to Ginebra in the Finals, had six points and two rebounds in 12 minutes. The scores: GINEBRA 105 — Aguilar J. 20, Pringle 16, Chan 12, Tolentino 11, Mariano 8, Thompson 7, Tenorio 6, Devance 6, Dillinger 5, Balanza 3, Caguioa 2, Salado 0, Aguilar R. 0. MERALCO 91 — Maliksi 18, Hugnatan 16, Amer 10, Newsome 10, Almazan 6, Jackson 6, Hodge 5, Black 5, Quinto 4, Jamito 4, Jose 3, Pinto 2, Caram 2, Salva 0. Quarters: 20-20, 51-39, 74-60, 105-91......»»

Category: newsSource:  mb.com.phRelated NewsOct 18th, 2020

He kept trying to see him

    Gospel: Lk9:7-9 *  Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2020

An Interview with John Shipton, father of Assange: “Julian’s oppression is the great crime of the 21st century”

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated that Julian was arbitrarily detained and that he should be compensated and released immediately. The last report was in February 2018. It is now 2020 and Julian remains in Belmarsh maximum security prison under 24-hour lockdown. The post An Interview with John Shipton, father of Assange: “Julian’s oppression is the great crime of the 21st century” appeared first on Bulatlat......»»

Category: newsSource:  bulatlatRelated NewsSep 15th, 2020

Rizal priest found dead with gunshot wound

The parochial vicar of the St. John the Baptist parish church in Taytay, Rizal was found dead with a gunshot wound in the chin on Wednesday......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsSep 10th, 2020

Olympian and PBA pioneer Orly Bauzon dead at 75

After his playing years, Bauzon went into coaching and handled college teams like his alma mater UST, UP and Adamson......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsSep 6th, 2020

Scottie would have loved one more year with Bright and Prince

All those playoff exits at the hands of San Beda University still pains Scottie Thompson. “Lahat-lahat,” he answered when asked in The Prospects Pod which of University of Perpetual Help’s Final Four losses to the Red Lions hurt the most. “Nasira pangarap naming lahat eh.” Despite bowing out to the red and white in three of his five years as an Alta, however, the 6-foot-1 playmaker said his most painful defeat actually came from Colegio de San Juan de Letran. “Actually, hindi San Beda yung pinakamasakit,” he shared. “Yung pinakamasakit is yung last year ko. Non-bearing na sa Letran tapos may bearing sa amin, dapat papasok kami ng Final Four pag manalo kami.” Thompson was talking about the wine and gold’s last elimination round assignment in NCAA 91 - a closely contested season that saw six squads all have a shot at the Final Four. Before that game, Perps stood at joint third at 11-6 and a win would have staked claim to the fourth and final playoff berth, thereby closing the door on Mapua University, Jose Rizal University, and Arellano University. On the other hand, the Knights had already clinched a top two finish - though they were still in a dead heat for the top-seed with archrival San Beda. In the end, Letran triumphed. In the end, Perpetual stood on the outside looking into the playoff picture. And in the end, that was the former MVP’s last game in the NCAA. “Dahil dun sa talong yun, hindi kami nakapasok ng Final Four sa mismong last year ko pa. Hindi ko makakalimutan yun,” he said. Even more, that Altas team was fully loaded as aside from Thompson, it had future MVPs Bright Akhuetie and Prince Eze. If only he had one more go-round, the now-27-year-old has no doubt that he, Akhuetie, and Eze would be back with a vengeance come Season 92. “Siguro, kung nabigyan pa ako ng isang chance na makasama sila, may chance kaming makabawi. Isang year lang kaming nagkasabay eh,” he said. He then continued, “Kulang lang ng isang taon. Siguro, kung isang taon pa, baka sakali lang.” A Scottie Thompson completely comfortable with Bright Akhuetie and Prince Eze? That sounds like a recipe for success for Perpetual and a recipe for disaster for the rest of the league. —— Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 29th, 2020

SEA GAMES: The silver that glittered like gold

When the editorial staff of ABS-CBN Sports was tasked to come up with our most memorable coverage, it didn’t take long for this writer to respond. The Philippine men’s volleyball team’s Southeast Asian Games semifinal match was the first thing that came to mind. Pesonally, that game against the highly-fancied Thailand squad topped all the countless volleyball matches that I’ve covered in my career. I’m at a loss for words on how to describe the emotions I felt that chilly night of December 8, 2019. Around 6,700 fans filled the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City not knowing that what they were about to witness was something historic. A magical night that would take away the frustrations they felt the day before when the more popular women’s team finished the preliminary round winless. For us sportswriters covering that assignment, we knew the Filipinos were up for a tough ride. Thailand ruled the last four editions of the event. On the other hand, the Philippines’ last significant outing in the biennial meet was a bronze medal finish back in 1991 – or when the current national team’s oldest member, setter Jessie Lopez was just five-years old.      Did we doubt our own team? Let’s just say we prayed to the high heavens to give us something positive to write about. But don’t get us wrong. Those who followed the formation and preparation of the squad knew it would yield results come the SEA Games. After all, in all three batches of the Nationals that participated in the regional sports meet since 2015, this particular team had the longest time to prepare – around eight months to be exact. The team’s composition itself looked really promising. For the first time, two of country’s best hitters in Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas, who both have experience playing in the Japan V. League,  donned the tricolors together. Espejo returned after skipping the 2017 edition so did his teammates in the 2015 squad Rex Intal and setter Ish Polvorosa. Bagunas was on his second tour of duty along with team captain John Vic De Guzman, Mark Alfafara, RanRan Abdilla and libero Jack Kalingking. Head coach Dante Alinsunurin, who was appointed to handle the team after Oliver Almadro and Sammy Acaylar in 2015 and 2017, respectively, tapped an old hand in Lopez and injected young bloods in playmaker Owa Retamar, Jau Umandal, Kim Malabunga, Ricky Marcos and Francis Saura. As part of their buildup the Nationals joined the Thailand Open Sealect Tuna Championship July last year.          The Filipinos achieved a great feat when they won bronze. Fans were able to witness the Nationals’ campaign via YouTube streaming while we volleyball writers, got to file our full stories through the help of De Guzman and Bagunas (God bless their beautiful hearts) who supplied us with game stats and granted postgame interviews. It’s just a shame I never got to cover the team’s training in Japan when the Nationals’ preparation went on full throttle. (Note: A little confusion in the training camp coverage assignments had me flying to Japan with the women’s squad and Lance Agcaoili of Spin.ph joining the men’s team. But it was a great experience, nonetheless, and I’m grateful for Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. for the opportunity.)     I was as confused as the other sportswriters present during the draw for the group stage a couple of months before the SEA Games when Alinsunurin chose to join the four-team bracket with Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Those three teams are considered contenders every SEA Games edition. And earning a semifinal spot would be harder compared to the other group composed of Thailand, Myanmar and Singapore. Fortunately, the gamble was worth it. Espejo and Bagunas were superb offensively, Malabunga and Retamar made their presence felt and the Nationals’ blocking shocked Cambodia and Vietnam as the Filipinos swept them both to secure a semis seat.   Then came the steamrolling Indonesians. Honestly, I thought the Nationals would sweep their way to the group’s top seeding. That way the PHI’s would've avoided a semis clash with Thailand. Forced to take on the defending champions, the Filipinos found themselves down in the first set. They got back in the second frame before yielding the third. And when the Thais came to match point, 24-21, in the fourth we all thought it was over. Fans were slowly emptying the bleachers not wanting to see the impending defeat. I was already waiting for the final score. Ready break the result. Then a miracle happened. The Nationals nibbled on the Thais' lead to force a deuce. After another deadlock, the Filipinos stole the set. The fifth frame was classic story of ‘who wants it more will win.’ An extended set made it even more dramatic. I vividly remember that sequence when Bagunas hammered the game-clinching kill off a lob from Lopez. After that all that I can recall was me pumping my fist up in the air and slapping the hardest high-fives I ever did with those inside the press room while howling like a madman.    The national team assured itself of a silver after 42 years. A silver after four freaking decades. They did it. Of course, the Indonesians bullied their way to winning the gold medal in a sweep of the inexperienced Filipinos. But who cares, the host team exceeded its podium expectations. That silver that glittered like gold made that coverage truly memorable. But it never crossed my mind that it would be the last important volleyball event that I will get to report. (Note: It would’ve been the UAAP if not for the health crisis that put all sporting events to a halt. Sad.) And that’s why I ended up writing these last few paragraphs. A farewell from this section. From my first article for this website back on December 1, 2014 – a post-mortem of Petron’s breakthrough title in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix – to my last published story, these were all written with only one thing in mind: in the service of the Filipino sports fan worldwide. Our run may have not been perfect, of course, we had our flaws. We had our fair share of criticisms from fans, athletes, sports personalities and sometimes even from our partner leagues and properties. We accepted our shortcomings. We tried to be better. But we are proud of what we did. We take pride with how we delivered sports stories through various digital executions that showcased sports beyond the confines of competition. On midnight of September 1 while most of you lay sound asleep, deep in slumber, hopefully, having a good dream and hours away from waking up looking forward to a better day, this website will be snapped out of existence.  More than half a decade of sharing stories to the Filipino sports fan will be seeing its last presence online on Monday – a holiday to celebrate the nation’s heroes. This website will then hear its final buzzer, its final whistle. Thousands of articles – written with passion, dedication and love – will be taken down as this website goes offline together with majority of ABS-CBN Sports’ social media accounts. But soon, hopefully, it will once again see the light of day.    We do hope that you will remember us, for we will remember all of you who made us your Kapamilya.   -- 30 --   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles Mark Escarlote has served as a sub-section editor for ABS-CBN Sports' website since 2014. He is among thousands of ABS-CBN employees who will be retrenched on August 31, 2020.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 29th, 2020

SEA GAMES: The silver that glittered like gold

When the editorial staff of ABS-CBN Sports was tasked to come up with our most memorable coverage, it didn’t take long for this writer to respond. The Philippine men’s volleyball team’s Southeast Asian Games semifinal match was the first thing that came to mind. Pesonally, that game against the highly-fancied Thailand squad topped all the countless volleyball matches that I’ve covered in my career. I’m at a loss for words on how to describe the emotions I felt that chilly night of December 8, 2019. Around 6,700 fans filled the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City not knowing that what they were about to witness was something historic. A magical night that would take away the frustrations they felt the day before when the more popular women’s team finished the preliminary round winless. For us sportswriters covering that assignment, we knew the Filipinos were up for a tough ride. Thailand ruled the last four editions of the event. On the other hand, the Philippines’ last significant outing in the biennial meet was a bronze medal finish back in 1991 – or when the current national team’s oldest member, setter Jessie Lopez was just five-years old.      Did we doubt our own team? Let’s just say we prayed to the high heavens to give us something positive to write about. But don’t get us wrong. Those who followed the formation and preparation of the squad knew it would yield results come the SEA Games. After all, in all three batches of the Nationals that participated in the regional sports meet since 2015, this particular team had the longest time to prepare – around eight months to be exact. The team’s composition itself looked really promising. For the first time, two of country’s best hitters in Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas, who both have experience playing in the Japan V. League,  donned the tricolors together. Espejo returned after skipping the 2017 edition so did his teammates in the 2015 squad Rex Intal and setter Ish Polvorosa. Bagunas was on his second tour of duty along with team captain John Vic De Guzman, Mark Alfafara, RanRan Abdilla and libero Jack Kalingking. Head coach Dante Alinsunurin, who was appointed to handle the team after Oliver Almadro and Sammy Acaylar in 2015 and 2017, respectively, tapped an old hand in Lopez and injected young bloods in playmaker Owa Retamar, Jau Umandal, Kim Malabunga, Ricky Marcos and Francis Saura. As part of their buildup the Nationals joined the Thailand Open Sealect Tuna Championship July last year.          The Filipinos achieved a great feat when they won bronze. Fans were able to witness the Nationals’ campaign via YouTube streaming while we volleyball writers, got to file our full stories through the help of De Guzman and Bagunas (God bless their beautiful hearts) who supplied us with game stats and granted postgame interviews. It’s just a shame I never got to cover the team’s training in Japan when the Nationals’ preparation went on full throttle. (Note: A little confusion in the training camp coverage assignments had me flying to Japan with the women’s squad and Lance Agcaoili of Spin.ph joining the men’s team. But it was a great experience, nonetheless, and I’m grateful for Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. for the opportunity.)     I was as confused as the other sportswriters present during the draw for the group stage a couple of months before the SEA Games when Alinsunurin chose to join the four-team bracket with Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Those three teams are considered contenders every SEA Games edition. And earning a semifinal spot would be harder compared to the other group composed of Thailand, Myanmar and Singapore. Fortunately, the gamble was worth it. Espejo and Bagunas were superb offensively, Malabunga and Retamar made their presence felt and the Nationals’ blocking shocked Cambodia and Vietnam as the Filipinos swept them both to secure a semis seat.   Then came the steamrolling Indonesians. Honestly, I thought the Nationals would sweep their way to the group’s top seeding. That way the PHI’s would've avoided a semis clash with Thailand. Forced to take on the defending champions, the Filipinos found themselves down in the first set. They got back in the second frame before yielding the third. And when the Thais came to match point, 24-21, in the fourth we all thought it was over. Fans were slowly emptying the bleachers not wanting to see the impending defeat. I was already waiting for the final score. Ready break the result. Then a miracle happened. The Nationals nibbled on the Thais' lead to force a deuce. After another deadlock, the Filipinos stole the set. The fifth frame was classic story of ‘who wants it more will win.’ An extended set made it even more dramatic. I vividly remember that sequence when Bagunas hammered the game-clinching kill off a lob from Lopez. After that all that I can recall was me pumping my fist up in the air and slapping the hardest high-fives I ever did with those inside the press room while howling like a madman.    The national team assured itself of a silver after 42 years. A silver after four freaking decades. They did it. Of course, the Indonesians bullied their way to winning the gold medal in a sweep of the inexperienced Filipinos. But who cares, the host team exceeded its podium expectations. That silver that glittered like gold made that coverage truly memorable. But it never crossed my mind that it would be the last important volleyball event that I will get to report. (Note: It would’ve been the UAAP if not for the health crisis that put all sporting events to a halt. Sad.) And that’s why I ended up writing these last few paragraphs. A farewell from this section. From my first article for this website back on December 1, 2014 – a post-mortem of Petron’s breakthrough title in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix – to my last published story, these were all written with only one thing in mind: in the service of the Filipino sports fan worldwide. Our run may have not been perfect, of course, we had our flaws. We had our fair share of criticisms from fans, athletes, sports personalities and sometimes even from our partner leagues and properties. We accepted our shortcomings. We tried to be better. But we are proud of what we did. We take pride with how we delivered sports stories through various digital executions that showcased sports beyond the confines of competition. On midnight of September 1 while most of you lay sound asleep, deep in slumber, hopefully, having a good dream and hours away from waking up looking forward to a better day, this website will be snapped out of existence.  More than half a decade of sharing stories to the Filipino sports fan will be seeing its last presence online on Monday – a holiday to celebrate the nation’s heroes. This website will then hear its final buzzer, its final whistle. Thousands of articles – written with passion, dedication and love – will be taken down as this website goes offline together with majority of ABS-CBN Sports’ social media accounts. But soon, hopefully, it will once again see the light of day.    We do hope that you will remember us, for we will remember all of you who made us your Kapamilya.   -- 30 --   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles Mark Escarlote has served as a sub-section editor for ABS-CBN Sports' website since 2014. He is among thousands of ABS-CBN employees who will be retrenched on August 31, 2020.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 28th, 2020