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.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Meet the new Bandana Kids: San Beda’s James Kwekuteye and Evan Nelle

Meet the new Bandana Kids: San Beda’s James Kwekuteye and Evan Nelle
by rick olivares

After a botched La Salle offensive, San Beda University point guard Evan Nelle took the pass, dribbled twice then pitched the ball to his right while looking to his left. At the same time Nelle got the ball, swingman James Kwekuteye raced forward. He knew the pass was coming. He picked up the ball and in one motion swooped towards the basket for a lay-up.

The score was 49-36, in favor of San Beda at the 5:37 mark of the third period. Roughly two minutes and 50 seconds later, it was Kwekuteye’s turn to find Nelle on the right side of the baseline. The point guard’s jumper swished right through for a 54-49 lead. 

The two combined for 19 points and 10 rebounds although Nelle did add 10 assists.

By game’s end, a masterful 74-57 triumph that saw San Beda bag their third Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup and finish the tournament undefeated for the second time in the last three years.

There were lots of heroes. Clint Doliguez was judged to be the best player of the game while Donald Tankoua took home Most Valuable Player honors. Bench players JB Bahio, Ralph Penuela, and Prince Etrata played well too. But the Bandana Kids – Kwekuteye and Nelle took the spotlight.

When Kwekuteye was told that the original Bandana Kid – former Great Taste and Gilbey’s Gin stalwart Steve Watson was first given the nickname by the late sportscaster Pinggoy Pengson, the Fil-Canadian wondered, “I hope we do him justice.”

They sure did.

Both Kwekuteye and Nelle are only in their second year with the Red Lions but even as early as their freshman years, stamped their class on San Beda basketball. 

“It was James’ idea to wear the bandana,” said Nelle. “I thought it was a good idea.”

“The two have bonded quite well,” pointed out Red Lions head coach Boyet Fernandez. “They were roommates during our trip to the United States and the two have become close friends.”

When the two find each other on the court, Kwekuteye points out that this is something they talk about and work on during practice. “I just run to a spot and I know the ball is coming. Evan’s game plan is to get the ball the quickest possible way to a teammate. He rewards teammates who fight for their position and work hard to get a good spot on the floor with a pass that makes everything look easy.”

During San Beda’s semi-finals game against Adamson, Kwekuteye didn’t wear the headband and Nelle jokingly called him out for that. The Red Lions struggled and only made way towards for the win in the last minute or so. 


“Not really,” deadpanned the Fil-Canadian. “I got a haircut before the Adamson game and I didn’t want anything messing up my hair. But seriously, I think for the most part, we will wear the bandana during the NCAA season. But not all time.”

When asked if their bandanas will inspire some fashion sense among Bedans, Nelle was quick to dispel any statement. “I don’t think the fans will care about that. It’s winning a trophy that they care about. Me and James – we’ll just try to do our best in winning another title.”

San Benildo upsets Xavier to bag 11U crown

San Benildo upsets Xavier to bag 11U crown
by rick olivares

The Colegio De San Benildo Golden Wolves opened Championship Sunday of the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup with a stunning upset over the undefeated and highly-fancied Xavier Golden Stallions, 41-39.

Charles Canaria buried a wide-open jumper from the right baseline with 1.1 seconds left in a come-from-behind victory. Xavier wasn’t able to get a shot off in the remaining time as San Benildo dealt Xavier its only loss in 10 matches.

Xavier led 24-18 after the end of the first half. But San Benildo tightened its defense and forced Golden Stallions point guard Andrew Chio into five turnovers in the third period alone. 

By third frame’s end, San Benildo held Xavier to only four points; their lowest in any quarter all tournament long, and led, 29-28.

Both squads battled to 35-all after Wesley Yu scored on an undergoal stab off a Hans Go drop pass, time down to 3:16.

Xavier looked to have a lock on the game when they led, 39-35, after two consecutive baskets by Go and Rambert Lagar, 2:24 left.

After a missed Golden Stallions’ shot, San Benildo went on the fastbreak with James Macale scoring on an and-one against Go, 39-37. Macale missed his bonus free throw but Jyrus De Villa was able to grab the offensive rebound and throw in an off-balanced shot to tie the match for the last time, at 39-all, time down to 1:34. 

After both teams traded possessions, Xavier’s Chio had a chance to win the game, but he held on to the ball a bit too long and by the time he took a shot, not only was it a short, but the shot also expired giving San Benildo a chance to win it with 8.2 seconds left.

With San Benildo’s Macale serving as a decoy and drawing a double team, Canaria found himself wide open and he buried the shot that send the Antipolo-based squad’s supporters in a frenzy. 

When time expired in Lagar’s hands, the San Benildo crowd broke out in jubilation.

Said Wolves head coach Angelo De Guzman, “This is an incredible win for us. The boys have really done their best despite the odds of a taller and talented Xavier team. And to think we don’t even have a proper court as we are a small school. We train in an open air cement court. So, this is good for the team and the school.”

Canaria simply nodded when he was asked if he was nervous when he took that last second shot. “I am happy,” he simply put.

James Macale was named Most Valuable Player for the 11-Under Division as he led San Benildo to the title and 19 points and 12 rebounds (including four blocks and three assists) in the championship game.

Rambert Lagar and Wesley Yu each scored nine points to lead Xavier. 

Letran’s Caralipio is King of the Hardcourt

Letran’s Caralipio is King of the Hardcourt

Colegio De San Juan De Letran Knight King Caralipio defeated Lyceum of the Philippines University’s Jamba Garing, 8-7, in the finals of the Hanes One-On-One King of the Hardcourt at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

The 21-year old from Moncada, Tarlac admitted he was tired from playing the quicker Garing, but he decided to continue to post up the smaller Pirate.

Garing raced to an early 7-2 lead off a triple and a pair of lay-ups. Caralipio on the other hand, missed three straight point blank stabs. But in his last three post-ups with the five-minute game clock perilously ticking away, he was able to score three straight baskets to pip the fancied Garing.

“Alam ko na prestigious yung one-on-one competition na noong 1980s pa raw,” said Caralipio who is in his second year with the Knights after playing with Letran’s Team B for two seasons. “Malaking karangalan na manalo hindi lang para sa pamilya ko kasama na rin yung iskuwelahan ko na Letran at bayan ko ng Tarlac.”

Said Garing who didn’t drop a game heading into the finals, “Napagod ako sa physical defense ni King.”

Last year’s King of the Hardcourt champion was College of St. Benilde’s Prince Carlos.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

PVL: The battle rejoined Creamline vs Petro Gazz

PVL: The battle rejoined
by rick olivares

I still say that Creamline and Petro Gazz will meet each other in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference Finals.

The Creamline Coolsmashers avenged their opening day loss with a 3-1 win over the Petro Gazz Angels (25-18, 21-25, 25-19, 26-24).

This was the game the Coolsmashers wanted; the team everyone is measuring them against. After all, in seven previous matches, Petro Gazz dropped only one set having won 21 others. 

Aside from coming out with a higher intensity, I felt that Creamline wanted this so bad. A loss would have really cast a pall on their title aspirations.

In our preview of this match, we opined that for Creamline to pull off a win, they would need Venezuelan middle hitter Aleoscar Blanco to really step up. And she did scoring 12 points and playing very good net defense. 

We pointed out that they would need more than Alyssa Valdez and Kuttika Kaewpin to score. In the first day match, Michelle Gumabao was hardly used. A mistake by their former coach who doesn’t seem to really know his players. Gumabao was huge yesterday scoring eight points and playing great defense.

Aside from Valdez, Kaewpin, Blanco, and Gumabao, setter Jia Morado provided some big points and top-notch playmaking. Morado was the conductor who directed Anusorn Bundit’s symphony. Whatever your team, you really have to tip your hat to one of the best playmakers in the country today.

And third, we thought that Creamline needed to be aggressive on offense.

The Petro Gazz Angels have three of the best receivers in the league in Janisa Johnson, Wilma Salas, and Cienne Cruz. Because of the quick offense of Creamline, the Angels were scrambling.

We previously reasoned that for Petro Gazz to fulfill their ttile aspirations, they simply need others to step up. Their over-reliance on Johnson and Salas hurt them. Jeanette Panaga has been contributing but she should tack on more numbers than a measly four points. 

Cai Nepomuceno-Baloaloa, who started in three of the four sets, did not score a point. And that hurt. You have Jovie Prado and Stephanie Mercado there. Why not use them?

Volleyball analysts have pointed out that Petro Gazz has the two best imports in the league and that has really covered up a lot of holes in their line-up. While the All-Filipino line-up may not be the best, they do have some weapons in there. I don’t think they should be for show or fillers in a line-up.

Of course, it is just one game thus far. But now, the battle has been rejoined. With two games to play, all teams are jockeying for third and fourth position in the next round as the top two seeds have been locked up by Petro Gazz and Creamline regardless of how they finish.

They would still want to finish strong because you get the feeling they will meet in the finals barring some unfortunate circumstance.

While that is looking far ahead, it would be interesting how both teams come out and what changes in strategy there are for Petro Gazz because it is now their turn to adjust.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Win or go home time! Looking at the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup quarterfinals

Looking at the Filoil quarterfinals
by rick olivares

It is win or go home time in the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup. After almost two months of competition, we are down to the last eight teams.

Let’s take a look at the match-ups for the Monday, June 17 games.

Adamson vs. San Sebastian (10am)
Adamson has the advantage because they have a deeper bench and Lenda Douanga, a rim protector. They have the talent and the depth to go deep. Their bigs – Lenda Douanga, Simon Camacho, and Christian Bernardo are playing well. Jerrick Ahanmisi and Jerom Lastimosa form a lethal backcourt combo. Off the bench they have capable support in Joem Sabandal, Aaron Fermin, and AP Manlapaz. 

Vince Magbuhos has confidence problems. If he overcomes that, he will be a force. But that is because the rookies have taken away some of those minutes. That the rookies are playing is good for the coming UAAP season.

With the Golden Stags missing Allyn Bulanadi, they have fewer options on offense and defense. 

The Stags’ RK Ilagan has been checked in the last two games and when he isn’t producing, San Sebastian doesn’t have much. JM Calma is more of a complimentary player. Alvin Capobres, back after a lengthy injury, is probably the only other player capable of creating for himself (with Bulanadi out) or for others. Kenneth Villapando can and will be the heir to Bulanadi as the do-it-all player so he will help. 

Michael Are’s game has gone south after a good previous season. Alex Desoyo needs more minutes and consistency. But where San Sebastian is vulnerable is at the center position. I feel bad for Jessie Sumoda. I think the coaches should really work on his skills. If Baste wants to go deep in the Filoil tourney and the upcoming NCAA, they will need Sumoda to contribute. 

Advancing to the next round: Adamson

Lyceum vs. CEU (12noon)
If Jayson David continues to play the way he did in the last two games – playing the role of CJ Perez in the last two seasons for the Pirates – on both ends of the court; add JC and JV Marcelino and Mike Nzeusseu in the slot, they will be tough to beat.

The way David and the Double Trouble brothers play together is a sight to behold. Kangkarot basketball. Pests on defense and pedal to the metal hoops. 

If they need to play steady, half-court hoops, Raymar Caduyac, Niño Ibañez, Jeff Santos, and Jerwin Guinto can beat you. This team has fully embraced the system of Topex Robinson. 

LPU is a veteran, talent-laden, and deep team. What will make them win in the Filoil tourney and the NCAA is if they can be more efficient on offense and lessen their turnovers. 

The Centro Escolar University Scorpions are in because UP vacated their slot. This is good experience for this team that is also battling it out in the D-League Finals versus Ateneo. 

As good as center Maoudo Diouf is, he cannot do it alone. He will need point guard Franz Diaz to be steady and knocking down those outside shots. Jerome Santos and Rich Guinitaran need to contribute not only on offense but also defense.

With a short rotation, they need to stay out of foul trouble. 

Advancing to the next round: The Pirates who will Look overwhelm CEU with their pace.

San Beda vs. FEU (2pm)
A veteran team that knows what to do against a rebuilding team filled with youth. 

The Red Lions aren’t as deep as they have been in years, but the strength of this team is they all know their roles. They have their gunners and their role players. 

But their success if predicated on Even Nelle, James Kwekuteye/Clint Doliguez, Donald Tankoua producing. San Beda can get by one either Kwekuteye or Doliguez in the midst of a slump. But if Nelle and Tankoua pitch in, watch out because they are putting the hurt from all sides of the court. Plus, I like the selfless contributions of Calvin Oftana, Ralph Penuela, and Arnaud Noah. 

FEU has talent, and they are one of the three hottest teams heading into the quarterfinals (along with San Beda and Lyceum). They have gotten better as the tourney went on with some players returning from injury (such as Hubert Cani). 

FEU was badly beaten by San Beda in the D-League. If they want to reverse the tables, they need to win the battle of the boards with Cameroonian Patrick Tchuente protecting that rim while veterans Wendell Comboy, Rey Bienes, Cani, Alec Stockton, Joe Nunag, and Ken Tuffin contributing. You cannot leave the fate of this team to young guns Xyrus Torres, Royce Alforque, and Kenji Roman. 

I think this game will be a lot closer than people think. 

Advancing to the next round: San Beda by a close one.

La Salle vs. Letran (4pm)
Just when people write them off, they come back with a good team. They always have had talent. They have savvy vets in Justine Baltazar, Aljun Melecio, and Andrei Caracut and solid players like Jordan Bartlett and Kurt Lojera plus young talent in Ralph Cu, Joaqui Manuel, Encho Serrano. If Brandon Bates can become more active they will have more front court depth.

Confidence has never been a problem for this team. 

Letran on the other hand has depth and talent. I love how this team is built. They have played well even without Jerrick Balanza and Bonbon Battiler. They have a solid frontline in Larry Muyang, Jeo Ambohot, and Christian Balagasay. They have athletes and two-way players like Renato Ular, Jap Pambid, King Caralipio, and Louie Sangalang. They have a tough point guard corps in Kurt Reyson, Tommy Olivario, and Fran Yu, and a terrific shooter in Allen Mina.

I’d say that Letran has the frontcourt edge. 

Advancing: If Letran’s back court can match La Salle’s they will advance. If they cannot stop Baltazar, Caracut, and Melecio, look for the Green Archers to march on.

Monday, June 10, 2019

UST drops mayhem on Mapua in Filoil win

UST drops mayhem on Mapua in Filoil win
by rick olivares

There was a familiar battle cry on Aldin Ayo’s black University of Santo Tomas shirt. In bold letters, right above the image of a growling tiger was a five-letter word – “mayhem.”

By game’s end with Mapua University, the UST Growling Tigers had prevailed, 91-67, with Ayo’s troops drilling 12 three-pointers and harassing the Cardinals into 21 turnovers and 13 turnover points.

UST broke out a stifling press that saw a 32-31 halftime lead by the Growling Tigers balloon up to 30 points on several occasions with the last pegged at 85-55 after two free throws by Soulemane Chabi Yo off a foul by Mapua’s Jasper Salenga with 2:38 left in the game.

Tigers forward Zach Huang opened the third period scoring with a jumper along the left baseline that signaled the start of a crippling 17-2 blitz; 49-33.

After Mapua’s Denniel Aguirre tacked on a solitary free throw for his side, UST answered with an 8-0 burst behind second stringers Nat Cosejo and Ferdinand Asuncion, 57-34.

Then UST closed out the third canto with a fusillade of triples with two coming from Abando and one each from Renzo Subido and Asuncion for a 70-43, Growling Tigers lead.

“Our system was in place last year,” said UST head coach Aldin Ayo. “This year, I have the players to implement what we want. But we are not yet there. We still have to work on a lot of things, but we are getting there.”

UST, no different from its D-League stint, attempted 34 triples, knocking down 12. In contrast, Mapua was 4-8. 

Super rookie Rhenz Abando led UST with 23 points, six rebounds, and three assists. Chabi Yo added a double double with 18 points and 10 boards. Ferdinand Asuncion also finished with 18 including five triples.

Mapua was led Denniel Aguirre who tallied 21 points. Noah Lugo and Jay Pido chipped in 17 and 11 points respectively. 

UST hiked its Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup to 2-4 while Mapua bowed out of the tourney with a 1-6 record.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Déjà vu all over again in the NBA Finals between Golden State and Toronto?

Déjà vu all over again in the NBA Finals?
by rick olivares photo from sky sports

The ongoing NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors – as early as Game Three -- eerily reminds me of the title series of 2004 between the Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Lakers.

I know. I know the series isn’t over between G-State and Toronto as it stands at 3-1 in favor of the latter, but even so… the similarities are uncanny.

In 2003-04, the Lakers returned to the finals after momentarily surrendering the title to San Antonio in 2003. They made some off season changes then bringing in Karl Malone and Gary Payton as bargain prices to backstop Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

This 2018-19 season, the Warriors returned to the championship round for the fifth straight year. This campaign, they brought in All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins who now gave Golden State five All-Stars in addition to having Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green. 

In 2003-04, Joe Dumars brought to Detroit the mercurial Washington center Rasheed Wallace.

In 2018-19, the Raptors brought in Memphis center Mark Gasol. 

In 2003-04, the Lakers were feuding. It was Kobe versus Shaq. Kobe versus everyone else. In fact, head coach Phil Jackson wrote a book about that turbulent season titled, The Last Season: A Team in Search of its Soul.

As for the 2018-19 Warriors, anyone remember the dust-up between Green and Durant early in the season? And there is speculation about how this team’s All-Stars will go their separate ways due to free agency or whatnot. 

In 2003-04, Detroit defeated an exciting Milwaukee Bucks team in the play-offs (the first round) that had Michael Redd.

In 2018-19, Toronto defeat an even more exciting Milwaukee Bucks team in the Eastern Finals that has Giannis Antentokounmpo.

In 2003-04, the Detroit Pistons fired head coach Rick Carlisle who guided them to back-to-back Central Division titles. They brought in Larry Brown.

In 2018-19, the Raptors fired Dwayne Casey who was the 2018 NBA Coach of the Year in favor of assistant, Nick Nurse. 

In 2003-04, the losing coach was Phil Jackson. 

In 2019, Steve Kerr, who is a disciple of Jackson (and also Gregg Popovich), is on the ropes.

Like Jackson, Kerr won in his first time to make the NBA Finals. 

In 2004, the Pistons closed out the Lakers in five. Will the Raptors accomplish the same against the Warriors?

It may all be coincidence, but even so, you have to admit it is fascinating. Everyone and their mother is interested to see how this pans out. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Wilma Salas insists on a low profile on the PVL’s hottest team

Wilma Salas insists on a low profile on the PVL’s hottest team
by rick olivares

Wilma Salas flew into Manila from Cuba on Saturday night, less than 24 hours before her new volleyball team, Petro Gazz was scheduled to take on the Creamline Coolsmashers on opening day of the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference.

“Oh, it’s hot,” she exclaimed when she got out of the airport and the hot and humid night. 

Several hours later, the 28-year old Cuban volleybelle remained hot as Creamline failed to cool her down en route to a game high 20 points (off 18 spikes and two blocks) and a three-set win over the defending champions (25-22, 26-24, 25-22).  

“It’s amazing how we and the entire quickly connected,” admired fellow import Janisa Johnson of Salas and their new team, Petro Gazz.

Once more, a few hours before the Petro Gazz Angels were scheduled the Banko Perlas Spikers, Salas was talking about how Filipino food resembled Cuban cuisine. “The Spanish influence,” she ventured. 

Come game time, trailing the Banko Perlas Spikers early in the first set, Salas led the team on a comeback, to take a 11-10 lead they would not surrender. Their foe was unable to receive and launch their attacks as Petro Gazz won once more in runaway fashion (2519, 25-21, 25-12). 

Yet for all the early season success, Salas has expressed caution. “I’ve played this game in many countries – Italy, Turkey Azerbaijan, Israel, and others. There is still a long way to go.”

While growing up in Cuba, Salas first gravitated towards basketball. But volleyball is even more popular in the island nation and she made the jump where she eventually represented the Cuban national team several times in the FIVB World Championships as well as the Pan American Games. 

“I think it is more fun, she succinctly said of the sport. “I enjoy it more.”

Not even a week yet in the Philippines, Salas is having a lot of fun. “It is not just the winning, but also the team atmosphere. It is a very good organization too.”

As she made her way out of the Filoil flying V Centre for a team dinner in the nearby Santolan Town Center, some fans asked for some selfies. “Good luck on your way to the championship,” one said.

“She smiled and only promised that she will try. 

“It’s hot,” she remarked. 

Yes, Wilma Sala is currently playing for the hottest team in the PVL.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Talking to PetroGazz import Janisa Johnson

Talking to PetroGazz import Janisa Johnson
by rick olivares

The PetroGazz Angels opened the Reinforced Conference of the Premier Volleyball League with a resounding three-set win over fancied Creamline (25-22, 26-24, 25-22).

The Angels’ two imports, Cuban Wilma Salas, and American Janisa Johnson, took center stage for PetroGazz as they scored 20 and 16 points respectively. Despite standing only at a deceptive 5’6”, Johnson can sure get up in the air and smash home some powerful spikes.

The 27-year old Johnson previously played for BaliPure during the 2018 Reinforced Conference alongside fellow American Alexis Matthews where the team finished sixth place with a 4-9 record. She most recently played in France with the Beziers Angels (from September to May).

So from one Angels team to another; with this one, the PetroGazz version.

We caught up with Johnson a day before their next match against Banko Perlas on Wednesday, May 29 (at 5pm), to talk about returning to the Philippines as well as her finding her way with her new team.

Q: How did you hook up with PetroGazz?

Johnson: One of my teammates from PetroGazz asked if I would be interested in playing for the team and shortly after, the manager asked the same. I was a fan of the team from what I remember playing against them last season so it was an easy “yes” for me.”

Q: How is the adjustment with your new team?

Johnson: I am doing great with this team. They’re a fun group of girls and we push each other to be the best players we can be.

Q: How was your adjustment this time around considering the heat?

Johnson: Yeah, this time around it was easier for me to adjust because I knew what I was coming into. Surprisingly, I have gotten used to the heat since dealing with it last season. I’m more prepared now and I realize I need to carry an umbrella with me no matter how sunny the weather may assume to be.

Q: How was it playing alongside Wilma Salas? 

Johnson: I met her hours before the game, but her and I got along well. When we were on the court, there were no problems connecting with one another. It was so easy playing with each other that I forget she arrived literally the night before the game.

I understand her English, but often, she speaks to me in Spanish. And since I am half Hispanic, there aren’t any problems conversing.

LPU Pirates scuttle EAC in Filoil tilt

LPU Pirates scuttle EAC in Filoil tilt
by rick olivares

The Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates bounced back from their loss last week to Far Eastern University with an 86-64 win over Emilio Aguinaldo College in the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan. 

The Pirates’ transferees from San Sebastian College – Jayson David, Rhanzelle Yong, and Renzo Navarro – presided over a huge blitz that bridged the first and second quarters that had EAC reeling. The trio scored their team’s first 24 points while helping limit the Generals to 10 points in the first 13 minutes of the match.

LPU hiked their lead to a high of 27 points, 60-33, following two free throws by Filipino-Australian forward-center Jerwyn Guinto with a minute to play in the third frame.

The Generals, however, showed the fight in them when they opened the final quarter with a 19-6 run behind JP Maguliano’s six points, 69-57, time down to 5:19.

Pirates head coach Topex Robinson sent back in Nzeusseu to quell the uprising and he quickly attacked the post to score on Maguliano, 71-57. Yancy Remulla’s triple was sandwich by four more Nzeusseu points to end EAC’s ideas of an endgame rally as they succumbed to an 86-64 setback, their fourth in five matches.

Jayson David led LPU to its fourth win in five games with 14 points. Mike Nzeusseu added 13 while Jeff Santos chipped in 12 with all his points coming from three-point bombs.

Kely Gurtiza led the hard-luck EAC Generals with 16 points. Kyle Carlos added 12 with Maguliano finishing with 10.

Robinson was happy with the bounce back win saying the loss to FEU “was an eye opener for us.” LPU’s coach used 15 players who all chipped in some statistical way. “We want to give everyone chances to play to see what they can do,” he added of his team’s effort. “Some might say that why gamble to allow EAC back in the game, but the Generals also have a good team in the making.”

LPU shot an incredible 50% from the field but were miserable from the free throw line where they were 13-23 for 57%. “That is something we really have to work on,” added Robinson of his team’s shooting form from 15-feet away. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Kent Michael Salado: The Last Chieftain

The Last Chieftain
by rick olivares

There were moments when it was circa 2014 and 2016. Arellano University Chief Kent Michael Salado put on the moves against De La Salle’s Encho Serrano then pulled up and stuck in a long jumper, 40-39, for the former’s squad.

Earlier, he drove right through the heart of La Salle’s defense and lofted a reverse lay-up where the ball kissed the glass before finding the bottom of the net.

But that jumper, would be the last gasp for the Chiefs against the Green Archers in that match as they dropped a huge run that gave them control of the game. It ended in an ugly 95-62 blowout loss for the Chiefs.

Inside the Arellano locker room, Salado iced his knees. 

It wasn’t too long ago where he suffered a knee injury while playing for Go for Gold in the D-League that also ended his 2018-19 campaign also with Arellano that was supposed to be his swan song with the team.

Salado, who hails from Cagayan De Oro, leaned back and took in the atmosphere in the dugout. Gone ae his running mates Jio Jalalon and Donald Gumaru. Together the three of them pressed foes into oblivion. Their understanding of each other and the game was telepathic. They made the game fun to watch with their free-wheeling ways.

Gone too are sniper Zach Nichols, athletic forward Michael Cañete, sleek Dioncee Holts who was actually a forward playing center, tough swingman Brylle Meca, and strong man Lervin Flores.

Archie Concepcion is still around as is Rence Alcoriza and Ellie Ongolo Ongolo. Salado went to war with those three.

However, the days when the Arellano Chiefs were NCAA title contenders are over; at least for now. They still had the makings of a Final Four squad last season when they still had Levi De la Cruz, Richard Abanes, Allen Enriquez, Kraniel Villoria, and Marwin Taywan. And of course, head coach Jerry Codinera who picked up the squad and turned them into NCAA finalists.

Some have graduated, most have left after the season for various reasons (and depending on who you ask). Taywan is now with the Emilio Aguinaldo Generals where he is perhaps that team’s version of Salado.

Salado now wears his hair long with some facial hair; like a younger Terrence Romeo. 

The Chiefs are 0-4 in the ongoing Filoil tourney. There isn’t much help save for power forward transferee Justin Araña. Alcoriza still has his moments. But the Chiefs cannot replicate their troika of Jalalon-Salado-Gumaru.

“When I returned, I had to adjust to this new team,” said Salado in the vernacular. “Before, we all knew what each one was going to do so we passed the ball where someone should be, we gambled on defense knowing someone was going to cover for me if my man got past me. Now, I don’t know. We’re learning to play with each other which is what the pre-season is all about.”

Right now, opposing teams are gearing their defense towards stopping Salado. La Salle threw a tough defending Serrano against him and when Salado was able to blow by him, there was a taller player to challenge the jump shot. With no Gumaru to spot up from the outside, no Nichols, in one particular play, Salado drove and tried another of those zany twisting reverse lay-ups of his. This time, La Salle was ready for him and center Justine Baltazar rejected the shot, grabbed the loose ball, and pitched it out igniting a fastbreak.

When Salado returned to the game, it was trying to stop a water leak with one’s hand. By the final frame, Cholo Martin, who replaced Codinera, went to his third unit (and the massacre continued).

After the game, Salado remained upbeat. “I have to,” he said “This is a young team and my role has changed. It’s to help them along and provide leadership. I cannot score 20-points per game. What is the use if we lose? I do what I have to but also to help the others get their shots. This is why we play the preseason more so since we (Arellano University) are NCAA season hosts.”

Does he think the Chiefs have what it takes to return to the Final Four let alone win it all?

He paused for what seemed like close to a minute. He smiled rather wryly. Kent Michael Salado knows it is tough. Very tough. San Beda is still the prohibitive favorite. Lyceum remains tough. San Sebastian and College of St. Benilde look mighty good. Mapua is up and coming as is Emilio Aguinaldo College. Jose Rizal University has the makings of a good team but still needs some pieces for them to make a Final Four push.

Salado smiled and measured his words, “We will try,” he once more said in the vernacular. “The ball is round.”

And the last of the great Chieftains who led Arellano to its best years in the NCAA got up and went out of the arena (the team bus more than 40 minutes late in picking them up). Salado sat down by the players’ entrance and joked about the bus being late. 

The bus driver has moved on. Salado’s hoping now, that this Chiefs team hasn’t missed the bus to basketball’s Promised Land.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

UAAP Women’s Volley Finals Game Two: Has Ateneo found its mojo?

UAAP Women’s Volley Finals Game Two: Has Ateneo found its mojo?
by rick olivares

The Ateneo Lady Eagles finally showed up in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Finals winning Game Two in four sets (26-24, 14-25, 25-21, 25-15) to set up the winner-take-all game this Saturday.

However, it didn’t happen right away.

The malady that has inflicted this Ateneo team – playing great one set then disappearing the next – almost all season long nearly did them in. We’ve always pointed out their inconsistencies despite their 12-2 elimination round record that really doesn’t mean much at this stage. Surprisingly for a veteran team like theirs too. I can expect that from NU, Adamson, and UE, but not them. 

One can point out to Eya Laure’s injury as that moment when the pendulum swung this Game Two. Yes, but not entirely. I thought the Lady Eagles looked better than their second set selves and that Dani Ravena’s entry also galvanized them. 

What makes UST dangerous is their consistency in scoring from all positions in the front court. Cherry Ann Rondina and Laure in the wings and KC Galdones and Ysa Jimenez or even Alina Bicar and Caitlyn Viray in the middle. Ateneo… well, you know Kat Tolentino and Maddie Madayag will provide that sock. With Ponggay Gaston and Bea De Leon, you’re not too sure. When Bea is on…. It feeds off on the rest of the team because she is such an emotional player. 

Watching UST all season long, I don’t recall head coach Kung-Fu Reyes getting mad on occasion like he would in previous years. He was more chill this year. Even when his team lost some games in the elimination round, they were chill. 

I don’t think they played under the radar at all. They did after Milena Alessandrini went down. But after that they were blazing again. I don’t think I saw a look of desperation on their faces probably until Game Two when they woke the sleeping giant.

Whether a combination of having a nuclear weapon in Rondina, and a shock trooper in Laure, the rookies played with no fear. Para silang nakasandal sa pader as that old commercial (Traders Royal bank in case this generation doesn’t know) said.

That is key…. The performances of Galdones, Jimenez, Mafe Galanza, and Laure. With that no fear mindset, they took it to Ateneo in Game One; hence, the win. 

Sure, Ateneo’s Achilles’ heel since Denden Lazaro’s graduation has been their floor defense. Gizelle Tan gave a good account of herself later on. And Ravena, on occasion (I think she will be fine next season). 

When was the last time we saw an injury during the finals? That was Season 77 when La Salle lost two players in the finals. Unlike this Ateneo-UST series, that finals was pretty much Ateneo’s. This time… well, it also hinges on Laure’s health.

I mentioned in an article the previous week that during a conversation with Eddie Laure, Eya’s father, he thought that the long minutes has told on his daughter. Not that he is blaming anyone. Her other teammates play just as long minutes. It was more of the nicks and niggling injuries that eventually told on Eya.

Has Ateneo recovered its mojo? 

I can’ tell. 

I did say that this is all about grit. Who will grit their teeth and bear the pain and the pressure? 

When asked about Game Two, I said that the first set was key for Ateneo. If they get it, meron silang baon. If not, they’ll be in a hole that I don’t think they can recover. 

Game Three will come down to which team’s stars will step up, how they battle those nerves, and who has fewer errors. 

Unlike previous seasons where you know that it is La Salle’s to win and La Salle’s to lose, this one is unpredictable. A team that is trying to regain its footing against a team on the rise.

And that is why this is why this is such an interesting series.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Players to watch out for this Filoil Preseason Cup

Players to watch out for this Filoil Preseason Cup
by rick olivares

The Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup is only in its second week and yet some players are making a case for themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming NCAA and UAAP seasons.

These are more reasons to watch the games at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Alec Stockton and Cade Flores (FEU)
Stockton, the New York City-kid began to get more minutes last season under Tamaraws head coach Olsen Racela. This summer, he has been promoted to the starting unit and he is making an impact on both ends of the floor.

Against National University, Stockton tallied 15 points, four rebounds, and one steal in 21 minutes. What the stat line does not show are how he played great defense against John Lloyd Clemente, Dave Ildefonso, and Chino Mosqueda. 

Flores, the Fil-Australian recruit will be a fixture at the four spot for FEU. Dependable mid-range jumper and free throw shooter. Rebounds and positions himself well. Not afraid to attack that lane.

Robert Minerva (NU)
Currently averaging 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, this kid who came up from the Bullpups is going to be a key player for NU for the next several years. He is their second chance opportunity player as he is adept at grabbing boards. He is willing to mix it up and can put the ball down the floor which is a huge plus.

Ralph Cu and Joaqui Manuel (DLSU)
When the Green Archers opened their summer account against UST, Manuel drove down the lane and missed a dunk against Growling Tigers center Chabi Yo.

Ambitious? Not really. Manuel has been throwing it down in practice games. He will eventually get someone and that is going to be something.

It is however, an indication that he is going to be an impact player in the vein of Kib Montalbo as he is smart and plays both ends of the floor. And he isn’t going to back down against anyone.

As for Ralph Cu, watch out because DLSU has another gunner. After three matches, he is 8-18 from three-point range and is averaging 8.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.

Dave Ando (UST)
Aldin Ayo has employed a twin towers combo with Soulemane Chabi Yo and Dave Ando. We know what we are getting with Chabi Yo who showed his wares in NAASCU. As for Ando who is in his second year, he is averaging 9.0 points and 9.5 rebounds. That is two rim protectors that Ayo has right now.

Kurt Reyson (Letran)
The second coming of JP Calvo? This homegrown player has become an integral part of the rotation of head coach Bonnie Tan. Even as a rookie, he is already displaying his leadership skills and willingness to take big shots. His stats will not show it yet, but this kid is a keeper.

Joem Sabandal (Adamson) 
This rookie who came up from the Baby Falcons has become a part of the rotation and is averaging 7.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in three matches. I’d say along with Jerom Lastimosa and Jed Colonia, this gives Franz Pumaren a good corps of playmaking guards who will only get better as they soak in more experience. But expect Sabandal to become a prime-time player for this team. He is exactly the creative player they need (as Lastimosa is more of a scoring guard) to get others involved. 

Honorable mention: Louise Delos Santos (JRU). He’s only played one game thus far but talk about an impact for JRU.