In opener vs UAE, coach calls it a must-win game

By WAYLON GALVEZ

Games Thursday (Wuhan Gymnasium, Wuhan, China)

9 a.m. — Syria vs Jordan

11 a.m. — Chinese Taipei vs Iran

1:30 p.m. — Japan vs Indonesia

3:30 p.m. — Malaysia vs Korea

6 p.m. — Smart-Gilas Pilipinas vs UAE

8 p.m. — Bahrain vs China

(Hongshan Gymnasium, Wuhan, China)

6 p.m. — Qatar vs Uzbekistan

8 p.m. — Lebanon vs India

* Smart-Gilas game against UAE live via AKTV channel 13

WUHAN, China – Philippine team coach Rajko Toroman doesn’t believe all Smart-Gilas has to do is show up to win its opening game against United Arab Emirates on Thursday night.

As the Fiba-Asia Championship comes off the wraps, Toroman is not taking any chances against the very same team Gilas had dealt a 95-60 beating during the Jones Cup in Taiwan last July.

“We have to be very, very serious against UAE,” said Toroman, whose team arrived in this most populous city in Central China Tuesday afternoon – two days before the start of the event that serves as a qualifying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics.

“It’s a very tough, very difficult game because UAE is not a bad team,” warned the Serbian taskmaster.

The match between Smart-Gilas and UAE is set at 6 p.m., a prelude to the main game between host China and Bahrain at 8 p.m.

The four teams are in Group D with the top three – like in the three other groups – will advance to the next round.

“I think that we are a better team, but if we underestimate them, we’ll be in serious trouble,” said Toroman, who will be assisted by former national coach Chot Reyes of Talk ’N Text and Ryan Gregorio of Meralco.

It’s now 14-0 for Stags

By JONAS TERRADO

Games Friday (The Arena, San Juan)

10 a.m. — Arellano vs Lyceum (Jrs)

11:45 a.m. — MIT-Malayan vs San Sebastian (Jrs)

2 p.m. — Arellano vs Lyceum (Srs)

4 p.m. — Mapua vs San Sebastian (Srs)

MANILA, Philippines — University of Perpetual Help rookie Earl Thompson had a golden chance to personally hand the San Sebastian Stags their first defeat in the 87th NCAA basketball tournament Wednesday.

But his jumper with barely a second left just bounced off the rim enabling the Stags to escape with a pulsating 77-76 win at The Arena.

It was a huge disappointment for Perpetual which got the opportunity to inflict the SSC its first loss after SSC’s star forward missed his first free throw then he was called for a lane violation on his second attempt with 11.5 seconds remaining.

Thompson, who had 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists, was tasked by coach Jimwell Gican to take the winning shot.

He also almost did it after evading the tight defense of Stags’ Ronald Pascual. His shot appeared to be on target but it cruelly bounced off to the utter disappointment of their supporters.

Making up for his earlier miscues, Abueva grabbed the rebound with all his might to preserve their unblemished record after 14 games.

SAN SEBASTIAN 77 — Pascual 27, Abueva 22, dela Cruz J. 12, Sangalang 7, del Rio 4, Miranda 3, Ferrer 2, Maiquez 0, Vitug 0, Antipuesto 0, Balucanag 0, dela Cruz L. 0.

PERPETUAL 76 — Asuncion 13, Elopre 12, Allen 12, Thompson 11, Vidal 9, Sison 6, Tonggal 6, Jolangcob 3, Sumera 2, Alano 2, Arboleda 0, Paulino 0, Parico 0.

Cone named B-Meg coach

By JONAS TERRADO

MANILA, Philippines — Former Alaska Milk coach Tim Cone apparently doesn’t have to wait long to get a new job.

Less than two weeks after severing his ties with the only other team he has ever coached, Cone has agreed to handle B-Meg, one of San Miguel Corporation’s three teams in the Philippine Basketball Association.

Although Cone announced last week that he was leaving Alaska after 22 years with no firm offer in sight, the suddeness of his transfer to B-Meg indicated that this job offer must have been in the pipeline for sometime especially when taken into context that his departure from Alaska was just a month or so before the opening of the new PBA season on Oct. 2.

Cone was at B-Meg’s practice session yesterday, handling the scrimmage as he begun his new job in earnest.

Sources said he had signed for a five-year contract although other details were not divulged.

Noli Eala, who has a corporate role with the SMC group, confirmed the appointment of Cone yesterday.

“Tim Cone will officially be joining the SMC group as head coach of B-Meg starting the first conference,” said Eala in a text message. “He took over the practices of the Llamados starting (yesterday).”

Cone will join a team that dealt him numerous title defeats in the past when B-Meg used to carry the Purefoods franchise.

The American mentor lost four times to the Hotdogs in the finals (1990, 1994, 2002 and 2010) but was able to defeat the same squad in the 1996 All-Filipino, 1997 Governors’ Cup and 2000 All-Filipino championships.

Cone takes over a team, who recently added Smart-Gilas Pilipinas member Mark Barroca after a post-draft deal with Shopinas.com.

“It’s an honor to be a part of the San Miguel family,” said Cone in a statement. “B-Meg is a great team and I am excited about the new challenge and the opportunity to bring my coaching skills to an entirely different level.”

Rivera gets 600th save in Yankees’ 3-2 win

SEATTLE (AP) — The celebration was pure Mariano Rivera.

No big screams or wild gestures. Certainly no spectacle, even if Rivera is widely regarded as the best ever at what he does.

Just warm hugs and appreciative handshakes from Yankees teammates. And even that might have been more than what Rivera wanted following the 600th save of his remarkable career.

“Maybe later on after I retire, but right now I’m not focused on that. I’m not that type of guy. I’m a team player,” Rivera said. “I tell you guys many times and I’ll continue to tell you, it doesn’t depend on myself. It depends on my teammates giving me the opportunity to be able to pitch.”

Rivera moved within one save of Trevor Hoffman’s major league record by closing out New York’s 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.

In a season in which teammate Derek Jeter already reached one of baseball’s grandest milestones with his 3,000th hit, Rivera also has added to his Yankees legacy. Next up is No. 601, which could come Wednesday night in the series finale at Seattle.

But even Rivera acknowledged the big one will be No. 602, when he passes Hoffman to become the most prolific closer in major league history. That leaves little time to savor No. 600, or 601. The quick turnaround is just part of the job.

Rivera entered with a one-run lead in the ninth inning and allowed just a one-out single to Ichiro Suzuki. He was retired when catcher Russell Martin caught Suzuki trying to steal second for the final out.

Jeter put the tag on Suzuki and smiled as he brought the souvenir ball to Rivera. One by one, New York players lined up for the muted, respectful celebration.

“We’ve been close for a long time and I know how important it is for him to come in and do his job,” Jeter said. “He takes a lot of pride in it. He’s a prideful guy.”

But just think, Rivera has racked up all those saves — plus 42 more in the postseason — primarily on the strength of one dominant pitch: a sizzling cut fastball. And he’s done it in pressure-packed situations with the Yankees always in contention. Indeed, he’s been the back-end backbone of this team for 15 years.

“Just to think, about every game Mariano has ever pitched has been a meaningful game,” Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. “Every one of those saves meant something.”

That biting cutter was there again on Tuesday night as Rivera notched his 41st save of the season in his 46th opportunity.

It was the 1,037th appearance of his career, but it almost didn’t happen. Setup man David Robertson labored through the eighth as Rivera started stretching out, giving up a leadoff single to Dustin Ackley and walking Justin Smoak with one out. Robertson got Miguel Olivo swinging at a 3-2 pitch while the runners advanced. Robertson then fell behind Adam Kennedy 2-0 and issued an intentional walk to load the bases.

Trayvon Robinson came on to pinch-hit for Casper Wells, who had struck out three times already, but couldn’t do any better, striking out on a fastball and leaving the bases loaded.

Rivera then took off his jacket and started throwing moments later. He didn’t have much time to get ready as New York went down quickly in the top of the ninth, but jogged in with most of the Yankees fans in attendance standing and many snapping pictures.

Nearly the entire Yankees dugout stood on the top-step railing.

Pinch-hitter Wily Mo Pena was gone on a foul-tip strike three into Martin’s glove. Suzuki then served a soft single into left field, but Rivera struck out rookie Kyle Seager.

He didn’t even need to finish pitching to Ackley as Suzuki was thrown out by Martin trying to steal. Rivera savored the chance to share the moment with Jeter and another longtime teammate, Jorge Posada.

“They are family away from your family. It was great seeing them all come to the mound,” Rivera said. “Again, I’ve been blessed to have a great bunch of guys who have supported me and given me all the opportunities.”

Robinson Cano provided the Yankees offense with a homer and two RBIs, while A.J. Burnett (10-11) won for the first time since Aug. 15 thanks to a season-high 11 strikeouts. New York stayed four games in front of second-place Boston in the AL East after the Red Sox thumped Toronto 18-6.

Rivera missed out on a save chance in the series opener when the Yankees battered nemesis Felix Hernandez in a 9-3 victory. But the New York offense was kept in check Tuesday night by Charlie Furbush (3-9), who allowed just three runs and struck out six in 5 1-3 innings.

Nick Swisher’s leadoff double in the sixth eventually led to Cano’s fielder’s choice that scored Swisher with the go-ahead run. Rafael Soriano and Robertson worked the seventh and eighth innings to set the stage for Rivera.

And perhaps to Rivera’s liking, he wasn’t the one recording the final out. It was Martin coming through with a perfect throw to get Suzuki.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever see it again. That’s how much of an accomplishment this is that he and Trevor Hoffman have done. Simply remarkable,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “This is a guy who I believe is the best closer that’s ever been in the game and I’ve had the fortune of catching him, coaching him and managing him and it’s a treat.”

Scotland beat Georgia 15-6 in Rubgy World Cup

Scotland maintained their winning start to the World Cup but were pushed all the way before defeating fearless Georgia 15-6 in a Pool B match here on Wednesday.

At a drenched Rugby Park Stadium a battle of the fly-halves ensued in the showpiece tournament’s first try-less affair.

Merab Kvirikashvili handed his side an unlikely lead against the run of play before Dan Parks leveled the scores.

From there the men in the number 10 shirts traded blows with the boot and with Scotland?s pack on top there was only one winner in difficult conditions.

The Lelos, coached by former Scotland international Richie Dixon, went into the clash after winning all eight of their previous matches in the last 12 months.

But Scotland head coach Andy Robinson hoped his side?s narrow escape against Romania would provide a wake-up call ahead of the second round clash with Georgia.

Scotland are ranked seven places higher than the minnows by the IRB and boast a 100 per cent record when captained by Rory Lawson following wins against South Africa, Samoa and Ireland – and now Georgia.

But the match left plenty to be desired with a make or break clash with Argentina due on September 25.

“The conditions dictated a lot today,” said Scotland skipper Rory Lawson. “We came up against a big, old Georgian side. It was a workmanlike performance to put them away today.

“I felt we just kept plugging away, put them under pressure and took the points when they were on offer.

“We came looking to get two wins in Invercargill and we got what we came for.”

Scotland defeated Romania 34-24 here in their opener on Saturday.

The Scots made an assured start to the crunch clash, but it was Georgia that had the first chance to take the lead.

Following some strong ball carrying from Georgia’s colossal backrow. Kvirikashvili dropped into the pocket but lost his footing and his drop-goal drifted left of the uprights.

Both sides enjoyed periods of pressure but were let down by mistakes in the final quarter.

Georgia took the lead on 17 minutes when Sean Lamont was caught offside and Kvirikashvili slotted a long-range penalty.

Parks almost instantly had the opportunity to draw level but the inconsistent fly-half snatched his penalty attempt.

He made no mistake from straight in front of the posts on 22 minutes to tie the scores.

Following a sustained period of pressure, shortly after the half-hour mark, Scotland edged into a 6-3 lead courtesy of Parks? right boot.

And he was at it again on 38 minutes with an opportunistic drop-goal to hand Robinson?s men a 9-3 lead at the interval.

Scotland again started brightly but were thwarted by Georgia’s courageous defense which continually forced mistakes from Robinson’s men.

Parks was off-target with a 63rd minute long-range penalty account as the second-half stalemate continued.

Rory Lamont sliced through the Georgian defense on 65 minutes but the Lelos scrambled well and bundled Jim Hamilton in to touch.

But five minutes later Parks broke the deadlock and stretched Scotland’s lead to 12-3.

Georgia instantly hit-back with a penalty from Kvirikashvili to reduce the deficit to six points but with four minutes to go Parks was on target again as Scotland held on for a hard-fought win. (AFP)

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U-20: Spain blanks Ecuador

BARRANQUILLA, Colombia (AP) – Real Madrid playmaker Sergio Canales sparked Spain to a 2-0 win over Ecuador on Wednesday, booking a second-round spot at the Under-20 World Cup.

Surprising Saudi Arabia also advanced after routing Guatemala 6-0. Nigeria did the same by beating Croatia 5-2, while Costa Rica kept alive its hopes of reaching the second round with a 3-2 victory over Australia.

Spain struggled early against Ecuador in Manizales but picked up the pace after Canales came off the bench in the 56th minute, playing for the fi rst time after a lingering muscle injury.

Canales scored from close range in the 67th and set up Alvaro Vazquez’s goal with a nice through ball in the 85th. Vazquez had also came in as a second-half substitute.

“I’m very happy because it’s not easy to come back from an injury,’’ said Canales, who had been nursing a muscle ailment on his left leg. “We played with a lot of heart in this match and now we are already through to the second round.’’

The victory gave Spain six points from two matches in Group C, three more than Costa Rica and fi ve more than Australia and Ecuador.

Having already guaranteed its spot in the knockout stages, Spain has the option of resting its top players when it plays its last group game against Australia on Saturday, but coach Julen Lopetegui says the team will not relax.

“I don’t think we will change the way we play,’’ he said. “We always come out to win and that objective hasn’t changed.’’

Ecuador, which will play its fi nal group match against Costa Rica, was a man down from the 65th after midfi elder Christian Ona was ejected for a second yellow card.

“We played a great match but we didn’t have enough luck to score even though we created many chances,’’ Ecuador coach Sixto Vizuete said. “Without disrespecting Costa Rica, we still haven’t lost anything. If we play like we played against Spain, we can think about earning four points and advancing.’’

Costa Rica will be boosted by its victory against Australia, though, thanks to defender John Ruiz’s winner in the 72nd-minute in Manizales.

Striker Joel Campbell opened the scoring for Costa Rica in the 22nd. Tommy Oar equalized for Australia in the 26th, but Campbell netted again a minute later.

Australia evened the match with an own goal by defender Franciso Calvo in the 64th, but Ruiz’s header off a cross by Campbell gave Costa Rica the victory. “It was a very diffi cult match, very intense,’’ Costa Rica coach Ronald Gonzalez said.

Australia’s Dutch coach Jan Versleijen said his team deserved better luck.

“We let this one get away,’’ Versleijen said. “We will have to get a good result against Spain, there is no alternative. It’s going to be hard, no doubt. Spain is the best team in the group, but we are not giving up yet.’’

In Armenia, substitute striker Uche Nwofor scored two secondhalf goals to give Nigeria a 5-2 victory over Croatia and a berth in the second round.

Striker Olarenwaju Kayode scored in 25th minute and defender Terna Suswan in the 30th to give Nigeria an early advantage at the Centenario stadium. Ivan Lendric put Croatia on the board in the 42nd before Nigeria sealed the victory with Ahmed Musa in the 62nd and Nwofor in the 69th and 73rd minutes.

Nigeria has a perfect six points from two games in Group D, along with Saudi Arabia, which got goals from six different players in its rout of Guatemala.

NCAA: San Beda battles Mapua

Games Friday
(The Arena, San Juan)
10 a.m. Letran vs Lyceum (Jrs)
11:45 a.m. San Beda vs MIT-Malayan (Jrs)
2 p.m. Letran vs Lyceum (Srs)
4 p.m. San Beda vs Mapua (Srs)

MANILA, Philippines – Unbeaten San Beda looks to gain another headway over San Sebastian when it battles streaking Mapua Friday in the 87th NCAA basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.

Coming off a resounding win over Letran on Monday, the Red Lions tackle with the Cardinals in the second game of the seniors’ doubleheader at 4 p.m.

In the other game, Letran seeks to bounce back from that defeat when it takes on guest team Lyceum at 2 p.m. This will be a crucial game considering that both teams are almost tied for third to fourth places.

Garvo Lanete, Kyle Pascual and Dave Marcelo guided the defending champion to a 77-62 beating of Letran to hike their record to a perfect 6-0 slate.

But the Stags on Wednesday tied San Beda for the same record after a 77-70 win over Emilio Aguinaldo College.

It will be another tough test for the squad of coach Frankie Lim. They are scheduled to face Jose Rizal University on Aug.10 before battling San Sebastian on Aug. 19 in a rematch of last year’s fi nals.

“We have to show more tenacity because were facing a tough schedule,” said Lim. “We just have to prepare well, lean on our scouting report and play our usual game.”

Mapua is on a hot streak lately. After a 0-4 start, the Cardinals won their last two games including Monday’s 73-70 win over Arellano.

In that game, Allan Mangahas entered the game with seven seconds left and hit the winning three at the buzzer to propel Mapua to the victory.

Meanwhile, the Knights and Pirates square off in an another “Battle of Intramuros” showdown.

Letran is carrying a 4-2 slate but the team of coach Louie Alas and led by Kevin Alas, Jonathan Belorio and Jam Cortes should expect a feisty challenge from the Pirates.

The Pirates, playing their fi rst game since an 82-57 setback to San Sebastian on July 25, are toting a 4-3 record and has been the league’s surprising team led by Chris Cayabyab, Rich Guevarra and center Allan Santos.

Odesnik returns from ban, loses

WASHINGTON (AP) – About 18 months after Australian customs officers caught him with eight vials of human growth hormone, Wayne Odesnik played his first ATP main-draw match on Wednesday since returning from suspension, and lost.

The American was beaten 6-1, 6-1 by Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. Odesnik held serve in the opening game, then – after a rain delay of nearly two hours – dropped the next 11 games in a row at the hard-court tuneup for the U.S. Open.

“I’m just trying to move on with my career, with my life, put it behind me the best that I can, and that’s it,’’ Odesnik said. “If they have negative things to say, that’s them. I’m not going to sit here and bad-mouth anyone… They don’t matter to me.’’ Odesnik said the past 18 months “rejuvenated my career, because I’m a lot hungrier.’’

There was better news for two other Americans: Donald Young progressed to the round-of-16 after opponent Jurgen Melzer retired in the midst of a thirdset rain delay with a pulled leg muscle while trailing 6-4, 3-1; and Michael Russell also profited from an opponent’s injury when Xavier Malisse quit with an arm injury while trailing 7-6 (4), 2-3.

The exits by No.4 seed Melzer and No.14 Malisse add to withdrawals by Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick and Fernando Gonzalez earlier in the tournament. In the only other match that was completed before late-day showers interrupted play again and led to the postponement of six singles matches, No. 9 Nikolay Davydenko beat Matthew Ebden of Australia 6-3, 7-5.

Stepanek’s opponent in the round-of-16 will be Finn Jarkko Nieminen, while Young and Russell will face each other, and Russia’s Davydenko will take on either fifth-seed Fernando Verdasco of Chile or Australian qualifier Marinko Matosevic.

Odesnik had not played at this level since April 2010, when he lost in the semifinals at Houston. By then, he already pleaded guilty in an Australian court to importing HGH in January 2010 and was fined less than $10,000.

In May 2010, he was banned for two years, with the punishment backdated to December 2009. And in December 2010, that two-year suspension was cut in half because the ITF said Odesnik cooperated with its antidoping program.

The group’s rules say that an athlete’s ban can be shortened when “the participant has provided substantial assistance’’ in uncovering other offenses. The ITF did not reveal how Odesnik helped – and he made a passing reference Wednesday to “things… I’m not entitled to tell.’’

Gilas off to Taipei Friday

MANILA, Philippines – It was 13 years ago when a Philippine team last captured the title in the Jones Cup.

Dondon Hontiveros thinks the Smart-Gilas Pilipinas has a legitimate shot of ending that long championship drought when the national team opens its campaign in the annual tournament Saturday at the Sinjhuang Stadium, New Taipei City in Taipei.

“We have a good chance of doing that this year,” Hontiveros said yesterday after the final practice session of the team at the Ynares Gym in Pasig City.

The Smart-Gilas Pilipinas departs for Taipei Friday with a mission of winning the Jones Cup and to improve as well as it prepares for its ultimate goal, the FIBA-Asia Championship in September in Wuhan, China, the qualifying event for the 2012 London Olympics.

“Actually that’s the instruction of coach (Rajko Toroman), for us to improve, for me and Asi Taulava to get used to playing with the team’s core,” Hontiveros said. “Of course, winning the title is also a goal for us. We’re not going there just to join.”

The last time the Philippines won the Jones Cup was in 1998.

The PBA-backed squad – known as the Centennial Team – was mentored by Tim Cone and bannered by the likes of Alvin Patrimonio, Allan Caidic, Johnny Abarrientos, Vergel Meneses, Kenneth Duremdes, Jojo Lastimosa and Olcen Racela.

Hontiveros and Taulava, two of five PBA players tapped by Toroman to reinforce the national team for the upcoming FIBA-Asia Championship, played in the Jones Cup in 2007 but their team handled by Chot Reyes placed third overall. (Waylon Galvez)