Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

UST Juniors and Womens rule Filoil Flying V Opening

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UST Juniors and Womens rule Filoil Flying V Opening
by rick olivares

The UST Lady Tigresses took the “rubber match” of a budding rivalry with the CEU Lady Scorpions, 73-57, for an opening day win the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup at the San Juan Arena yesterday.

The two women’s teams played two games in the recently concluded Pilpinas Chinese Amateur Basketball League splitting the series. “Sabi ko sa team namin na panalunin natin to para hindi nila (CEU) masabi na tsamba yung panalo namin last time,” said senior shooting guard Kristine Siapoc who drilled in eight of 12 three-point attempts all from 25-feet out.

Siapoc provided the scoring sock that allowed UST to post a comfortable lead in the first period by going five-for-five from three-point range. The Lady Tigresses posted a 25-11 lead at the end of the first period.

CEU mounted a rally that saw them come back from 17-points down, 30-13, to come within three, 35-32 behind the sterling play of shooting guard Apet Pontejos (16 points) and point guard Demi Lou Villanueva (10 points) with 1:06 left to play in the second period. But the Lady Scorpions momentarily relaxed their press and the man-to-man guarding on Siapoc. UST’s shooting guard hit back-to-back treys to close out the first half for a 41-32 lead.

The Lady Tigresses held off one last charge by CEU before coasting to their first win of the summer tournament.

“Si Tin, eh,” praised UST head coach Chris Cantonjos. “Ayaw magmintis.” The former Growling Tiger said that he is fielding six new players for the next season and that they hope to use the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup as a springboard for the UAAP. “Dito na namin susubukan lahat para sa UAAP.”

Jhen Angeles backstopped Siapoc with 10 points.

UST made it a twin killing when the Tiger Cubs defeated the UP Junior Maroons, 91-86, in Juniors Play. Nicole Luna and Vince Ferrer, younger brother of current Growling Tigers’ star Kevin, scored 19 and 13 points respectively to lead their squad while UP was paced by Enzo Barraquias who top-scored with 27 points.

Talk ‘N Text’s new look

Talk ‘N Text’s new look

by rick olivares pics by mon rubio and nuki sabio

If you’re wondering what has come over the Talk ‘N Text’s suddenly hirsute appearance, then wonder no more.

Almost the entire team is sporting a beard or some facial hair.

I had to ask team manager Paolo Trillo about this considering the humid weather we have been experiencing. According to Trillo, when Richard Howell first came over, he was the only one (aside from Kelly Williams, Harvey Carey and a new-look Ranidel De Ocampo) sporting a beard. Then it became a team thing with four or five others joining in until everyone decided to sport some (more so since their unbeaten streak began).

The exceptions?

Jimmy Alapag and Jai Reyes.

Quipped Trillo, “No matter how hard they try, they just can’t seem to grow any hair on their face.”


Imagine if TNT still had Jared Dillinger… I wanted to ask JD if he was a fan of the WWE's Daniel Bryan… you think it's a YES?

Breaking down Air21’s historic playoff win vs. SMB

This appears on the PBA website.

Breaking down Air21’s historic playoff win vs. SMB
by rick olivares pic by brosi gonzales

It’s ironic that Air21 head coach Franz Pumaren mentioned that it is the 25th anniversary of the grand slam year of his old San Miguel ballclub. When Pumaren and his SMB teammates entered the PBA in the Open Conference of 1986, they won only two matches against 10 losses finishing at the bottom of the seven-team standings. The Cheesemakers had talent as they brought up that Northern Consolidated Cement team (of former college stars and national teamers) minus the naturalized players to the pro league but in that first conference, they were clearly going through a period of adjustment.

The next season, they finished third in two of the four tournaments played that year (there was a very short invitational tourney). By 1988, they had won two conference championships signifying their ascent to the top. Then in 1989 came the grand slam.

When Pumaren returned to the PBA, this time as head coach of Shopinas during the 2011-12 season, his team didn’t seem to have a clue as they went 0-14. That must have been déjà vu for the coach as his team of former college stars struggled to find their chemistry, rhythm, and game.

During the 2011-12 season, his team finished 5-27. He lost more games in one year in the PBA than during his eight years in the UAAP coaching La Salle (not counting those seasons where the matches were forfeited for player ineligibility) combined.

There was marked improvement during the 2012-13 season when Air21 went 14-25. There were two quarterfinals appearances last season and this year, his team looks to have finally found that groove. They aren’t all-league beaters like Pumaren’s old SMB teams were – yet -- but they are battling opponents tooth and nail. The Express are no longer an automatic win for foes.

Playing the returning San Miguel Beer (after a stint as the Petron Blaze Boosters) in the quarterfinals of the Commissioner’s Cup gives Coach Franz this odd vibe. Especially since he’s trying to spoil the anniversary of the Beermen’s grand slam by advancing – if possible – the campaign of Air21.

The Express finally won a playoff game by upending SMB, 92-79, in their quarterfinals match-up, last April 22 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, negating the Beermen’s twice-to-beat advantage. And what a match it was.

Air21’s 1st Quarter storm where the Express played relentless and aggressive basketball for nearly the entire game.
Air21 jumped on SMB from the opening tip. Eliud Poligrates, a coup for this club as he was freed from Talk ‘N Text, dictated the frenetic play by fearlessly attacking the basket and being aggressive against counterpart Chris Ross.

SMB’s point guard was so flustered and harried that he committed seven turnovers to his eight assists.

You know that you’re getting aggressive play from Asi Taulava and with Poligrates playing the same way, it was infectious for Air21. They double-teamed JuneMar Fajardo and got him into early foul trouble.

Stopping SMB’s dribble-drive offense
When Ross or Sol Mercado drove inside the lane, they were funneled towards the big man with another defender sliding in to prevent the drop pass. When the SMB guards kicked the ball out, they were missing shots.

The inevitable SMB comeback
SMB began to come back late in the first period when their coaching staff had import Kevin Jones playing inside more (17 points from the last two minutes of the first period all the way to the second quarter) with Fajardo saddled with fouls and relatively ineffective. They preferred the uptempo pace, something that suits players like Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, and Mercado. 

With Jones almost unstoppable inside that opened up the perimeter for SMB’s players.

Furthermore, Air21 was a little slower in their defensive rotations allowing the Beermen better looks from the outside and the perimeter.

Case in point: at the 1:48 mark of the 1st period and the score at 26-12 for Air21, Mercado was spotted for an open three. Jonas Villanueva was a second late in rotating out to Mercado who hit the triple.

During SMB’s next possession, Lutz found Jones for an and-one inside. Then Mercado closed out an 8-3 run to end the first and get back into the game 29-20.

Shooting blanks
Just when it seemed they had found the plot to the game, SMB began to brick shots.

With about 6:35 to play in the second period, I scribbled down in my notebook, “How big were those two missed lay-ups by Mercado and Jones? Aside from that, SMB missed three three-point attempts and one medium range jumper.

Then Taulava hit a fade away right before the 24-second shot clock expired to give Air21 a 34-22 lead.

The Beermen’s lone bright spot
Let me say this…. Kevin Jones carried the woeful Beermen. He didn’t get much support from his teammates Lutz scored 11 while Arwind Santos added 10 however the former was scoreless in the payoff period while the latter scored eight in the same frame (much too late to dent the lead).

Jones scored 34 points on 14-22 shooting from the field and 5-8 from the line. He also pulled down 15 rebounds with eight coming off the offensive glass. He also chalked up three assists and three blocks.

SMB had no flow to their game. Some players even seemed listless. And they clearly missed the lift of their twin threats in Lassiter (two points in 38 minutes) and Lutz.

Dialing back their game of yore
Taulava, the Big Fella, is far from done. He still has something in that tank. For a while he seemed content to knock guys around with his strength as his game went south. But Taulava has pride. He loves nothing more than to work on his game. And the match against SMB showed vintage Asi.

In that late charge by the Beermen to end the first quarter, Asi took a step back jumper over JuneMar with 46 seconds to play to make it 28-18. Emboldened by that big shot, he drove on their next possession to fish for Fajardo’s second foul.

Asi scored 17 points with 10 coming in the first half.

Sean Anthony played his biggest game since he starred for the Powerade Tigers’ incredible drive to the 2012 Philippine Cup Finals.

The only other player to really get under the collective skins of PBA players in Calvin Abueva and Beau Belga. Anthony is a pest with his physical game and boundless energy and penchant for being Charlie Hustle. They should create a stat just for Abueva, Belga and Anthony on how many tangled arms, cheap shots, elbows, banging inside and for position they account for every match. Anthony topscored for his team with 25 points. He also collected seven boards, one assist, and two steals.

When Taulava and Wes Witherspoon were in the bench, Anthony scored nine consecutive points to close out Air21’s third period for a 63-54 lead. And for good measure, he blocked Sol Mercado’s attempt at a buzzer beater (I don’t think Sean was credited for this).

As good a job Franz Pumaren has done with Air21, he was gracious enough to give credit to his players for this historic win by the long-suffering and title-starved franchise. The third-year PBA coach said that his team sustained their level of play and aggressiveness, kept their composure, and stuck to their system even when SMB made their run.

He tempered expectations and any celebration by noting that the two teams play in two days’ time.

Do you think his Express will continue to rain on SMB’s parade (and grand slam anniversary celebration)?

We’ll find out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Macaraya looks forward to CEU’s Filoil experience

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Macaraya looks forward to CEU’s Filoil experience
by rick olivares

When the name of Edgar Macaraya crops up in any basketball conversation, his record of 14 triples in a game is invariably brought up.

A deadeye shooter, Macaraya won NCAA titles with the San Sebastian Stags alongside Bong Alvarez, Eugene Quilban, Eton and Mandy Navarro, Nani Demigillio, Toying Teves, Nap Hatton, and Allan Garrido among others. Aside from success in the NCAA, Macaraya won eight titles in the PABL with Magnolia and Triple V. It was also in the PABL where Macaraya broke Allan Caidic’s record for the most number of triples made in an amateur match with 14 with Sta. Lucia against Burger King. “Parang doon ako nakilala,” noted Macaraya. “It’s also nice to be remembered for a part of basketball history.”

Like many of his Stags’ teammates, Macaraya moved up to the PBA suiting up for Swift and Sta. Lucia.

Almost three decades later, Macaraya, the former San Sebastian Stags hotshot finds himself coaching the Centro Escolar University Scorpions in NAASCU and Café France in the PBA D-League.

Coaching is something he never thought he’d get into. However, wanting to extend his role in the game long after he hung up his sneakers, Macaraya found himself on the sidelines teaching the rudiments of the game. “Hindi ko akalain na mag-co-coach tayo. Pero happy naman ako. Maraming challenges kasi bilang head coach na hindi mo naranasan as a player. Mas well-rounded ka.”

And unlike the scoring feat for which he is known, he preaches a little known facet of his game – defense.

“When I was playing even for San Sebastian, I played a lot of defense,” he bared. “Not many players do that at the two-guard position but I loved stopping my opponent.”

“Medyo glamoroso yung scoring,” the coach noted of players’ mentality. “Everyone wants to score. The hard part is getting them to play defense. Iba rin yung satisfaction of stopping an opponent. And everyone knows that defense is a key in winning a championship. No defense. No championship. Ganyan lang ka-simple.”

With CEU, Macaraya piloted the Scorpions to their first NAASCU title last season in the process unseating erstwhile defending champion, St. Clare (he learned his chops assisting another former Stags star Topex Robinson at San Sebastian). “You have to make believers out of everyone.”

Now in the summer Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, Macaraya hopes that his wards will learn from the experience of playing the best college teams from around the country. “You have to look at this from a different perspective,” he quipped. “This is a whole new learning experience for all of us. And we are moving to a bigger stage.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

Man on a mission: Derrick Pumaren returns to UE

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Man on a mission: Derrick Pumaren returns to UE
by rick olivares

He returns to the school he called home for his high school days and his first two years in college. He won a UAAP Juniors Championship during his senior year in high school then when he transferred to another school two years into college, his former teammates copped a seniors crown.

Derrick Pumaren has had success in leading teams to collegiate championships (La Salle in 1989 and 1990) to amateur titles (Magnolia and Triple V) and the pros (Sunkist in 1995). Now, he hopes to lead his alma mater back to the Promised Land that is a UAAP title; something the UE Red Warriors have not taken back to Recto since 1985. “Twenty-nine years…” he said with his voice trailing. “It’s been that long.”

Pumaren admitted to being intrigued with returning to his alma mater. When he last donned UE’s colors in 1978, Hector Calma’s Adamson Falcons ended up league champions. The follow year, when his father, Pilo, who was also UE’s coach, transferred to La Salle, Derrick followed suit.

But life has a way of making one go back to where it all began for him.

“I would be lying if I said that I do not want us to compete for a championship,” he said during a sit down with media at the Coffee Bean shop at Promenade in Greenhills. The veteran head coach has slimmed down considerably; the product of “eating right” as he explains. “It is also setting an example to the players to get fit. Everyone has to make sacrifices.”

Sacrifice indeed. Pumaren recently gave up his consulting job with Hong Kong’s Men’s National Basketball Team. “They have been calling but I could no longer commit because with UE, my plate is now full. But international basketball is always wonderful. There is so much to teach and learn. Now that applies to UE.

Pumaren has only been on the job for seven days. “Not enough time to get to know the team and the players,” noted Noynoy Falcasantos who will join Derrick on the bench as an assistant.

The Red Warriors lost six players from a disappointing last season – team captain Adrian Santos, JM Noble, Jai Flores, Ralf Olivares, Lord Casajeros, and Jay-R Sumido. After annexing the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, the Red Warriors were seeded to compete for a Final Four slot. Instead, they floundered and limped to the finish line.

But hope spring eternal… or does it?

“When I looked at the stat sheet from last season, aside from Roi Sumang and Charles Mammie, I am left with players who played four, five, or six minutes a game last year so we will have our work cut our for us. Hopefully, we will still have time to recruit…. whoever is left out there.”

The coach returns to a college basketball landscape that is vastly different from the one he left. Recruitment has spiraled out of control. “Our work isn’t only confined to Xs and Os but to also the entire program. Do we compete with everyone else?”

For now, he has to figure out the weapons he has left in his arsenal. And that is point guard Roi Sumang and center Charles Mammie.

Pumaren was a point guard when he played for both UE and La Salle. “The point guard is the extension of the head coach,” he pointed out. “I am not going to stop Roi from getting his points but I will also ask he to direct the plays and become a better playmaker. We do not have enough scoring options. If we can get others to score that will ease the burden on Roi and even Charles.”

Charles Mammie.

Talented. Enigmatic.

“I spoke with Charles and laid down all my cards. I am a no-nonsense coach but I am also a fair man,” explained Pumaren by way of sending a message to the Sierra Leone native who sometimes coasts or lives in “Mammie-time or “Mammie-world” as some of his teammates put it. “I have to show fairness to everyone. They have to all work hard. Right now even the veterans have to qualify for a spot on the team. Nothing is a given. Every one works hard or they do not play at all.”

The past two weeks (not counting the brief Holy Week break) have been one of observation. “It’s all been practice,” bared Falcasantos who played for Pumaren with the Triple V team in the old Philippine Amateur Basketball League. “Pagdating sa Filoil tournament marami kaming matututunan.”

“There are a lot of challenges,” summed up Pumaren. “But no one ever said it was easy. And that is why we do this.”

The road to bringing back UE to glory is long and hard. New powers have risen up. Recruitment is way even more insane than the PBA.

The veteran coach knows that. But as he said, “I would be lying if I said that I do not want us to compete for a championship.”