ANGELES University Foundation has always been the hub of sporting events whenever the action heads up north of Metro Manila.
From PBA out-of-town games to home games for the Pampanga Giant Lanterns in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), the AUF Sports and Cultural Center has been the place to be for Cabalens aching to have a piece of the action.
But in the past two years, the gym has slowly made itself a site to remember, housing some of the most memorable and unbelievable moments in Philippine sports.
Who knew that the fourth floor court of the Great Danes, who already considered staging games for the NCAA Season 85 when AUF was a guest team a decade back a big achievement, will be the main venue for sports in the country, especially in this time of pandemic?
Spin.ph lists eight key moments which makes us believe that AUF Gym could now be considered as a winner's venue.
Asserting supremacy in arnis
No sport delivered the most gold medals from the Philippines' 149 haul in the 30th Southeast Asian Games than arnis.
The Philippine martial arts delivered 14 of the 20 possible golds as every athlete in the delegation came away with medals.
It was a clean sweep in the men's livestick with Dexler Bolambao (bantamweight), Nino Mark Talledo (featherweight), Villardo Cunamay (lightweight), and Mark Banares (welterweight); as well as in the women's padded stick with Sheena del Monte (bantamweight), Jedah Mae Soriano (featherweight), Ross Ashley Monville (lightweight), and Abegail Abad (welterweight) as they all took home golds.
Jesper Huquire (bantamweight), Elmer Manlapas (featherweight), and Carloyd Tejada (welterweight) bagged golds in men's padded stick, while the same glory followed for Crisamuel Delfin (men's anyo non-traditional open weapon), Jezebel Morcillo (women's livestick bantamweight), and Mary Allin Aldeguer (women's anyo non-traditional open weapon).
Silver medals were also won by Billy Joey Valenzuela (men's padded stick lightweight), Mark David Puzon (men's anyo traditional open weapon), Jude Oliver Rodriguez (women's livestick featherweight), and Ryssa Jezzel Sanchez (women's anyo traditional open weapon).
Completing the podium sweep for the Philippines in arnis are Eza Rai Yalong (lightweight) and Erlin Mae Busacay (welterweight), both in the women's livestick category.
Mugen gets it done
Mark Striegl came to the sambo competitions of the 2019 SEA Games with a lot of pressure on his back given his reputation.
But 'Mugen' certainly lived up to the hype, clobbering Ashvin Jaswant Singh of Singapore, 8-0, to win the gold medal in the men's 74-kg category in the combat discipline.
Not to be outdone, Chino Sy made it two for the Philippines as he bested Gary Chow Weng, 4-1, in the men's 82-kg division.
The pair of golds were the highlight for the Philippine sambo team, which also got a silver from Rene Catalan (men's 57-kg division), and three bronze medals from Patrick Manicad (men's combat 82-kg), Jose Rene Mondejar III (men's combat 90-kg), and the team of Helen Aclopen, Mariane Mariano, Jedd Andre Kim, Renzo Cazenas, and Patrick Dos Santos in the mixed team category.
Wrestlers score twin kills
The Philippine wrestling team also captured a pair of gold medals in the 30th SEA Games, both in men's Greco-Roman, when Noel Norada bested Nguyen Cong Thanh of Vietnam in the men's 63-kg category and Jason Baucas repeated the feat over Duong Hong Phuc in the men's 72-kg division.
Though only the two were able to reach the pinnacle in their weight classes, the 10 silver medals wrestling had was the most from the 117 the Philippines got.
Those came from Michael Vijay Cater (55-kg), Margarito Angana Jr. (60-kg), and Jason Balabal (87-kg) in men's Greco-Roman wrestling; Alvin Lobreguito (50-kg), Ronil Tubog (61-kg), Jhonny Morte (65-kg), and Joseph Angana (70-kg) in men's freestyle; and Jiah Pingot (50-kg), Minalyn Foy-os (55-kg), and Noemi Tener (62-kg) in women's freestyle.
Jefferson Manatad completed the medalists as he got bronze in the men's Greco-Roman 77-kg category.
Muyang comes home a hero
Larry Muyang joined Pampanga in January 2020 hoping to add more spunk to his home province.
And in his first game with the Giant Lanterns, the burly 6-foot-5 center had a debut to remember, scoring the game-clinching bucket from Jeric Fabian with 12.4 seconds left that broke a 79-all deadlock and helped them take the thrilling 82-79 win in overtime.
Muyang actually was the one to save the game for Pampanga in regulation, cleaning up a missed Mark Cruz three to tie the game at 72 to force the extra frame.
It was a sweet exclamation point for the Letran big man, who had nine points and seven rebounds in his first game for the Giant Lanterns, a performance made sweeter that he did it in front of his fellow Kapampangans in the AUF floor.
PBA plays on
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the PBA finally found a way to resume its postponed 2020 Philippine Cup as it mounted a bubble -- the first of its kind in the country -- with all of its games being held at the AUF Gym starting in October.
Sluggish as the players were when the first ball was tipped, action soon followed.
TNT's Roger Pogoy and Bobby Ray Parks had scoring eruptions, tallying new career-highs in scoring to usher in the season's resumption.
What followed was a spate of tightly contested games and dramatic finishes, as well as its fair share of blowouts, but none more hogged the headlines than the off-the-court storylines headlined by the return of Phoenix Super LPG's Calvin Abueva midway through the season as the public watched the games from the confines of their homes, and for a lucky few, as virtual fans in the LED boards around the court.
Soon, though, the play was everyone's primal focus, from San Miguel's reign atop the all-Filipino conference being snapped with a slew of injuries, Matthew Wright propelling the Fuel Masters to the semifinals with a game-winning three over Magnolia, to Scottie Thompson delivering a dagger over Meralco in a thrilling Game Five semis clash against Meralco.
Ginebra is king again
Speaking of Ginebra, it became the only PBA team which could lay claim that they won a title in the year 2020.
Not even the absence of Greg Slaughter due to a sabbatical could halt the Gin Kings' groove as Stanley Pringle buoyed the Tim Cone crew to the crown, first taking down Rain or Shine in the quarterfinals before the aforementioned semis duel against Meralco.
TNT posed the biggest threat to Ginebra's title aspirations, yet the Tropang Giga were no match for the Gin Kings as LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, Prince Caperal, Pringle, and Thompson all took turns in carrying the load, ending in a five-game series victory for the crowd favorites.
It was a satisfying end for the three-month stay in Clark for the Gin Kings as it truly was a conference for the books.
Belangel's answered prayer
Pressure was on for the youthful Gilas Pilipinas pool when it went to Clark for the third window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers.
Not only is their development gauged, the Tab Baldwin-mentored crew will also have to perform against a tough foe in Korea, the country's archrivals and a nation the team has not beaten in eight years.
But in its first game, it's not Dwight Ramos or the towering combo of Kai Sotto and Ange Kouame who stood the tallest, but rather the smallest man on the court in SJ Belangel.
The 5-foot-10 guard out of Ateneo shot Gilas to the stratosphere, faking out Lee Seoung-hyun and threw up an off-balanced, off-the-glass three which found the bottom of the net as the buzzer horned to deliver the pulsating 81-78 win.
It was an unbelievable shot, no question, but more importantly, sent a strong message that this Gilas team is for real.
Gilas goes sweeping
Every good performance deserves an encore, and lucky for Gilas fans, it only had to wait four days before the Filipinos met the Koreans for part two.
This time, no lucky shots were needed by the Philippines as heroes were indeed aplenty for the hosts, which showed great composure and even more potent defense to score the 82-77 victory.
It was the Filipinos' first back-to-back wins over the Koreans in close to five decades and allowed them to preserve the Nationals' unbeaten home record against the vaunted opponents.
More importantly, it steered the Philippines to top Group A of the qualifiers at 6-0 and book its ticket to the continental showpiece in Indonesia in August.
Truly, it was a performance to remember from these young turks, and that's why AUF Gym will always have a special place in their memories.
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