Top 11 sports moments of 2011

Natashya Gutierrez

Top sports stories of 2011. December 23, 2011. Compiled by Natashya Gutierrez.

MANILA, Philippines – As the year comes to a close, Rappler celebrates the victories, the losses, the sportsmanship, and every other memorable moment in Philippine sports for the year 2011. On this list, we have history-making performances, an underdog that erupted into the scene, and a knockout for the books. Plus our list-topper might surprise you, because its number one for the most unexpected reason.

Rappler brings to you…

The top 11 sports moments of 2011

11) Petron halts Talk ‘N Text’s quest for a grand slam

The Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters were favorites to win the PBA Governors’ Cup. The Texters were vying to be the fourth team ever to win a grand slam after capturing both the PBA Philippine Cup and Commissioner’s Cup. The Petron Blaze Boosters however, had other plans. In a dramatic finals series, the Boosters took the dream away from the Texters after defeating them 85-73 in a thrilling, winner-take-all game 7. No grand slam for the Texters, but the Boosters’ win raised their status as the squad with the most number of wins in the league. They now have 19 championships to date.

This game makes our list because aside from its nail-biting nature, it shows that the PBA has enough talent in its league that not one team is able to dominate… making PBA games all the more exciting to watch.

10) Billiards and softball display consistent wins in the SEA Games

Pool champs Rubilen Amit and Iris Ranola assured the country of a gold medal when both Filipinas advanced to the finals of the 26th Southeast Asian Games. The face-off between former world champion Amit and 26-year-old Ranola resulted in a 7-2 victory for the latter, allowing Ranola to emerge from Amit’s shadow, and secure the Philippines’ first double gold in the Indonesian SEA Games after winning the 8-ball gold medal earlier in the games. In 2009, it was Amit who was the double gold medalist. In total, the Philippine team won 3 gold medals, 2 silvers, and 4 bronzes in billiards.

As for the softball teams, the women, also known as the Blu Girls, cruised to victory after posting wins in every game they played in the SEA Games including their 6-0 win over Thailand in the finals. The Men’s Team, the Blu Boys, also stole the crown with a 7-3 beating of host country Indonesia. The double gold medals is a repeat performance from the 2007 Thailand games. Softball was scratched in 2009.

The performances of the billiards and softball teams are worth attention because of their consistencies in performance, a solid sign of continued progression and development in both sports.

9) NBA mania hits Manila

NBA stars come to Manila for an exhibition match with local players. July 23, 2011. Photo by Joker Arroyo.

In a basketball-loving country, the games were a dream come true for Filipino sports fans. The country was enveloped in basketball mania when NBA hotshots Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Derrick Willimas, Tyreke Evans, James Harden, Derek Fisher and Javalee McGee flew to Manila for an exhibition match against the Smart Gilas national team and an all-star team from the PBA.

The visit of some of NBA’s biggest stars is significant because it gives our players exposure to an international level of play, but is in our bottom three because the losses of both the PBA and the national team show that Philippine basketball still has a long way to go. 

8) Ateneo Men’s Basketball team takes home their 4th title

The Ateneo men’s basketball team capped their stunning season by winning their fourth championship in a row. The Blue Eagles swept the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in the finals after emerging victorious in all but one game the entire season. Veteran Nico Salva was named Finals MVP, Greg Slaughter and Emman Monfort shone anew, and Rookie of the Year Kiefer Ravena showed why a fifth championship may well be on the way, with him as a new addition to the team.

Ateneo deserves a spot in our list because of their near-sweep season and their historic four-peat; they are a team to watch because slowly but surely, Coach Norman Black seems to be building a college basketball dynasty. 

7) SSCR is first NCAA team to win the PCCL

After the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Stags upset the Ateneo Blue Eagles, they became the first NCAA team in history to capture the Philippine Collegiate Champions League title in its nine-year history. The win was a pleasant prize for the Stags, who lost to the San Beda Red Lions in the NCAA Finals. The Stags outplayed the Eagles 73-67 handing neophyte coach Topex Robinson his first championship for the Stags, the team’s first title since the 2009 NCAA championships, and the UAAP top dogs the bitter taste of defeat.

For the mere fact that the NCAA is slowly becoming more and more competitive – enough to defeat UAAP reigning champions – it is easy to see why this game got the thumbs up for the number seven spot.

6) Donaire knocks out Montiel

Two rounds was all number 4 pound-per-pound fighter Nonito Donaire needed to knockout Mexican Fernando Montiel. The 29-year-old Donaire dropped Montiel to the canvas with a devastating left hook. The knockout did not only give Donaire the World Boxing Organization (WBO) and World Boxing Council  (WBC) bantamweight titles, it was also named as SportsIllustrated.com’s Knockout of the Year. 

Donaire’s performance is a favorite from 2011 because it shows that not only does the country’s biggest international sport have potential, it also has a banner holder in other boxers outside of Manny Pacquiao.

5) Philippine Dragonboat team wins gold in Tampa

A member of the Philippine Dragon Boat Team that competed in Tampa. August 9, 2011. Taken by Den Victoria.

The Cobra Philippine Dragonboat Team paddled their way to the top in the World Championships at Tampa, Florida, despite the lack of support from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC). The shortage of finances was compensated for by sponsors and private companies, a story that spurred debate among Filipinos, support for the paddlers, and above all, consciousness of the sport. 

Our winning paddlers make the top five because their victory captivated the entire nation and galvanized the country into an understanding of sports politics. 

4) Philippine Volcanoes erupt into the international rugby scene

For the first time in history, the Philippine Volcanoes, the men’s national rugby team, made it to the finals of the highly competitive Asian Men’s Rugby 7s Championships. The underdogs went home with a silver medal after losing to top-notch Japan, but because of their impressive run, the Volcanoes have qualified for the highly prestigious Hong Kong 7s in March 2012, the world’s premier rugby sevens tournament where only the best 24 rugby teams are invited to play. In an interview with Rappler before their win in Borneo last September, Coach Matt Cullen confidently said, “I think in the next 12 or 18 months, people in the Philippines are going to know who the Volcanoes are.” 

We scored the Volcanoes high on our list because their rise in world rankings has been beyond striking, enough that it has managed to introduce Filipinos to a new sport. We believe in Cullen and expect more in 2012 from a team that we view as an international wild card… but has so far delivered.

3) The visit of the Los Angeles Galaxy team led by football superstars David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane is one to remember. Not only was it the first time in recent history that a high-caliber squad has played our national team, but if we look back at where the Azkals were a year ago, the leap they’ve taken and this friendly match comes unexpectedly even to the Filipino players themselves.

The game is third on our list because while the Major League Soccer champions demolished the Azkals 6-1, their loss was far outweighed by the advantage of the team’s trip to the Philippines. The unprecedented match, coined The Dream Cup, shows the progress the national men’s football team has made in one year, raises awareness of football in the country, and emphasizes what good leadership can do in developing our various national teams. It symbolizes increasing investment in the sport, and quite frankly, sheer star power cements football in the consciousness of Filipinos. And that’s what LA Galaxy helped the Azkals do.

2) Pagunsan is Asian Tour’s new No.1 

Golfer Juvic Pagunsan made history in December after being the first Filipino to clinch the Asian Tour Order of Merit crown in the region’s most prestigious tour. The award means Pagunsan is Asia’s No.1 player; he topped the Tour’s scorecard after 24 sanctioned tournaments. Pagunsan hauled a whopping $788,298 this season and was honored as the Players’ Player of the Year after being elected by his competitors.  

We proudly gave Pagunsan the second top spot because of the pride he has been able to bring to the country. In a tournament that brings together some of the best golfers in the world, his distinguished victories are huge. Pagusan’s accomplishments will hopefully inspire other Filipinos, especially younger golfers, to follow in his footsteps.

1) Pacquiao is far from invincible

Manny Pacquiao’s close win over Mexican fighter Juan Manuel Marquez, whom he defeated via majority decision on their third bout with each other, tops our list as the number one moment in Philippine sports for 2011. It was a controversial showdown. After the fight, Pacquiao dropped to number 2 on the pound-per-pound rankings and was replaced by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the lists of Yahoo! Sports, ESPN and Sports Illustrated. Only Ring Magazine kept the Filipino boxer in the number one spot. 

The fight was pivotal. While Pacquiao usually makes headlines because of his lopsided triumphs, we chose Pacquiao’s fight because it showed Filipinos and the world that the boxing champion is not invincible, and largely beatable. This is an important moment in Philippine sports. It is an epiphany for a nation that considers the fighter a demi-god, a realization that first came in 2011. – Rappler.com