Palawan, in a twist worthy of a Knight’s tale, Colegio San Juan De Letran made it to this year’s NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) final by eliminating the San Sebastián Stags and the Lyceum Pirates in a pair of grueling stepladder knockout matches to face the defending champions of Mendiola, the San Beda Red Lions.

The Bonnie Tan mentored Knights are on a mean streak even pulling the rug under coach Boyet Fernandez’s Red Lions in game 1 of their finals match up that spoiled San Beda’s aspirations to dominate this season by a clean sweep.

One thing that makes this feat more admirable is the fact that Letran is unfazed to go up against San Beda without an import on the roster. To offset the lack of foreign talent, Letran stacked heavy on the front line as the pair of Larry Muyang and Jeo Ambohot secured the paint while Jerrick Balanza and Fran Yu hit crucial shots at the end game to grab the lead in the best of 3 finals.

Will the Knights pull off a Cinderella finish this year? Let’s see how San Beda adjusts their game plan to avoid a sorry finish to what looked like a dominant NCAA run this year.

UST Marches Forward

Not to be outdone by their sister school in the NCAA, the University of Sto Tomas upset the UP Fighting Maroons on Wednesday to sweep their stepladder match 2-0 and move on to face the Ateneo Blue Eagles in this year’s UAAP (Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines) finals.

Coach Aldin Ayo’s Growling Tigers really had the number of the Fighting Maroons this year sweeping the eliminations and stepladder semis, practically winning all their match ups against Coach Bo Perasol this year 4-0.

As UP bowed out of contention this year, we also bid adieu to the collegiate careers of Jun Manzo and Bright Akhuetie who helped bring the UP basketball program to respectable heights.

Coach Bo Perasol was purely outclassed by Aldin Ayo’s mayhem system backstopped by the Tiger’s main weapon, the three-point shot, by way of a game-winning 30 foot contested jumper by Renzo Subido that all but snuffed out UP’s confidence as time clocked out. That jumper proved to be the turning point of the game as UST eked out a 68-65 conquest of last year’s first runners up.

Looking forward to a classic UAAP finals as UST faces Ateneo, two teams playing almost the same system of speed, defense, and ball movement. Let’s see if Ateneo can accomplish what their “sister school”, fellow Manny Pangilinan sponsored San Beda, failed to do in the NCAA.

Gambling in Sports

In an unprecedented move, the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, headed by founder and Senator Manny Pacquiao, has pulled the plug against one team caught red-handed in so-called “game-fixing” or manipulation activities that’s the threatening the integrity of the league. Let’s look into this side of sports that predominantly works on the background unseen by loyal, fun-loving fans like us.

Gambling in itself is a very profitable business. You don’t need to look further as you check the multiple private casinos proliferating in the bay area. As long as the gambling operations are legitimate and pay taxes, it’s all well and good.

Now let’s take a look at the dark side, that of illegal gambling. Whether it’s in a private garage or through more advanced tools like online betting sites, the culprits behind the operations of such try to influence the output of an event to make “more” money. They say a lot of fingers point to Chinese underground business that propels sports betting in the country or even the region.

There were allegations and a few exposes in the past that this black market betting does exist. Several incidents such as the one involving the shooting of then FEU forward Mac Baracael in the mid-2000’s and the NBI investigation on alleged point-shaving involving former St Benilde Blazer Paolo Orbeta are signs that individuals and groups are behind this thriving market.

The MPBL is currently being hounded by hooliganism that prompted Sen. Pacquaio to suspend the entire Soccksargen basketball team for its alleged involvement in this underground business. Personally, I feel there’s much more of this happening not just with the said team but league-wide. When I was browsing for MPBL stats on its maiden season, a website I clicked drove me to a betting site for some odd reason.

I salute the MPBL on its effort to clean its ranks but I believe it takes more serious government and political action to rid the country of game fixers that will, for sure, spoil the game we all love.

(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)