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2018 Yearender: Sports - A death, a brawl, and then some

Dominic Menor, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 29 2018 12:57 PM | Updated as of Jan 11 2019 12:11 PM

Two boxing champions past their prime were back on the throne. Fans of the 3 most popular teams in the PBA were treated to a title sweep. And Filipina athletes showed they could be Asia's best.

At any other time, one of those success stories would have been hands down the top newsmaker of the year in Philippine sports. But those took a backseat as the now notoriously infamous brawl involving Gilas Pilipinas punched its way as the most talked about narrative of 2018.

Here is the rest of the 10 buzziest sports stories based on ABS-CBN News stats.

IAN LARIBA DIES

Ian Lariba, a 2016 Olympian and 2-time UAAP athlete of the year, died on September 3 after a bout with leukemia.

Lariba, 23, was the first table-tennis player from the Philippines to compete in the Olympics. She was so dominant in her stint at La Salle that she didn’t lose a single UAAP game in her 5 years there.

Photo by Alkis Konstantinidis, AFP

GILAS PILIPINAS-AUSTRALIA BRAWL

A free-for-all broke out between coach Chot Reyes and the Philippines men’s national basketball team, and their Australian counterparts in a qualifying game for the 2019 FIBA World Cup on July 2.

The melee led to numerous suspensions (including Reyes’), an overhaul of the roster, and a shift in the fate of the Gilas PIlipinas program.

Photo by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

KOBE PARAS RETURNS HOME

After a so-so stint in the US collegiate circuit, Kobe Paras stunned local basketball when he announced in March that he was returning to the country and he intended to turn pro.

He surprised the sport’s community again when in July he said he was going to play for the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, his father Benjie’s former school.

Kobe Paras Instagram

HIDILYN DIAZ WINS ASIAN GAMES GOLD

Hidilyn Diaz broke the Philippines’ gold-medal drought in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta in August, capturing the women’s 53-kilograms class and setting off an all-Filipina sweep of the country’s gold-medal haul.

Diaz made sure to use her success by also pointing out alleged flaws in the management of local sports, an outspokenness that’s rare among successful local athletes.

Photo by Darren Whiteside, Reuters

JORDAN CLARKSON DEBUTS FOR GILAS

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas moved heaven and earth to get Jordan Clarkson to play for the national team, in a frenetic series of stops and goes in August that culminated in Clarkson finally joining Gilas Pilipinas in the Asian Games in Jakarta.

Clarkson’s arrival didn’t translate to a medal finish, though, as coach Yeng Guiao and his crew settled for fifth place.

Photo courtesy of the Philippine Sports Commission

BATTLE OF KATIPUNAN SEASON 81 FINALS

The Ateneo Blue Eagles and the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons took contrasting routes to get to the Season 81 title series in December — the defending champions were nearly unstoppable, while their once-struggling neighbors were enjoying their best season since 1986.

In the end, finals MVP Thirdy Ravena and Ateneo were dominant in a 2-0 sweep, as UP showed so much heart despite the loss.

Photo by Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

PACQUIAO KNOCKS OUT LUCAS MATTHYSSE

Manny Pacquiao recaptured the world welterweight title in July by beating Argentinean fighter Lucas Matthysse in Kuala Lumpur.

Not only did Pacquiao become world champion again, he also demonstrated that at age 39, he could still knock out opponents when he made an overmatched Matthysse kiss the canvas en route to victory.

Photo by Lai Sen Sing, Reuters

NONITO DONAIRE

Battling "Father Time" and constant calls by critics to hang up his gloves, Nonito Donaire Jr. emerged victorious against Ryan Burnett in Glasgow in November to win the world bantamweight championship.

Burnett was forced to retire after suffering an abdomen injury early in the bout, returning Donaire to the champion's circle after 2 years.

Nonito Donaire Jr. Instagram

2019 SOUTHEAST ASIAN GAMES PREPARATIONS

The Philippines on November 30 kicked off its yearlong countdown to the 30th SEA Games next year with a lavish ceremony while announcing grand infrastructure plans that will host the region's best athletes competing.

After a strong showing in the 2018 Asian Games, 2019 SEA Games organizers are looking for an impressive finish on the medal board. In the meantime, they are touting putting up a state-of-the-art venue at New Clark City, the groundbreaking of which happened this month.

Photo by Gracie Rutao, ABS-CBN News

TRIPLE CROWN FOR SAN MIGUEL CORP. CLUBS

San Miguel Beer started off the season on the right foot for its mother company by winning the Philippine Cup, a feat followed by Barangay Ginebra, which took the Commissioner's Cup championship.
 

Magnolia capped off the "San Miguel-Slam" by beating Alaska to hoist the Governors' Cup trophy.
 

Photo by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.