BLEACHERS BREW EST. MAY 2006

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, July 22, 2019

Mariano Rivera: Enter the HOF, Sandman.



Enter the HOF, Sandman.
by rick olivares

New York Yankees pitched Mariano Rivera was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame; a unanimous selection, last Sunday, July 21, 2019.

The Panamanian pitcher truly deserves it. He notched 652 saves; 51 more than second placer Trevor Hoffman. It was in the post-season where he was the most valuable. In his 18 years pitching for the Yankees, he finished with an 8-1 record with a 0.70 earned run average and 42 saves in 96 appearances. He helped New York win five Major League Baseball World Series titles.

As a lifelong Yankees fan, it feels good that one of my favorite players is going to the Hall of Fame (along with Mike Mussina in this class of inductees). The other inductees included Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Harold Baines, and Lee Smith. I got to see all the other players – against the Yankees – and all at the old Yankee Stadium.

I only have four Yankees jerseys with names on them – Paul O’Neill, Derek Jeter, Aaron Judge, and Rivera. Mariano is the only pitcher in that lot. 

I must have watched about a hundred live games of the Yankees and I still have every ticket that I purchased to Yankee Stadium. I consider myself lucky that I got to see all my favorites – O’Neill, Bernie Williams, DJ, A-Rod, Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi, and Mo. 

Watching him pitch in really tense situations, displaying that unnatural calm, and his expression hardly betraying any emotion is incredible. Win or lose, he was a stoic on that mound. The one time I saw him show any emotion was when he was “taken out” of the game by his teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte in his final game. That was emotional and Mo cried on Pettitte’s shoulders. Hell, I am a grown man and I cried too.

For many Yankees fan, watching him trot out of the Bullpen to Metallica’s classic song, “Enter Sandman,” is one of the game’s best sights.

Once, I got to shake Mo’s hand near the player’s entrance. I waited by that entrance quite a few times and there was no guarantee any player would come over to shake your hand. Mo did that one time and he didn’t just shake my hand, he even chatted for about a minute. I was in shock and really didn’t know what to say. I was so stunned that I forgot to even ask for a picture or autograph! What a dunce!

Him spending close to a minute is an awful long time. Other fans immediately came over. While Mo gave them time, he didn’t just move on and forget me. He made sure to politely say that he was going to say hi to the others as well. I have not met another sportsman/celebrity who has done or said anything within that zip code. That definitely left a good impression on me.

I guess, it was the way that team of Yankees under Joe Torre carried themselves that left a good impression on many. While all the players were fiercely competitive, they all conducted themselves in a professional manner.

One time, while working at Burger Heaven on East 96thand Lexington, I got to see lunch for Jason Giambi and then pitcher Tanyon Sturtze. There was a no autograph policy at the restaurant, but the two graciously signed autographs for me and another waiter from Bangladesh named Imon, who was a die-hard Yankees fan. 

There’s a risk they can be testy as they are on an off-day. I myself witness a famous actor blow off a young fan who asked for his autograph while he was eating. I was nervous that should Giambi and Sturtze be upset, Imon and I could get fired. But no. They were cool and they even chatted for a few seconds.

Sitting up in the upper tier boxes of Yankees Stadium, it is so easy to get caught up in all the emotions of a baseball game. The fans are vociferous in their support or loud in their opinions. Watching Mo, I kept to myself. In fact, I still remain calm ever during games today no matter how intense.

One time during the Philippines-Korea match of the 2013 Fiba Asia Championships, as the crowd at the MOA Arena was going wild, a colleague of mine asked me how on Earth could I remain so calm, not cheering, and well, looking very much composed.

I said, one, were journalists. We have to stay neutral. And then I said, “because of Mariano Rivera.” 

My colleague got it. He might be a massive basketball fan who doesn’t really watch baseball. But even he knew who Mariano Rivera was and what he stood for.

Congratulations on entering baseball’s Hall of Fame, Mariano. You deserve it.



Monday, July 15, 2019

Who Dares Wins: The Petro Gazz Angels


Who Dares Wins: The Petro Gazz Angels
by rick olivares

The British Special Air Service, that elite commando team tasked with taking on tough and impossible military missions, has a creed… “Who dares wins.”

The same can be applied and appropriated by the newly-crowned Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference champions, Petro Gazz Angels.

A few days before the start of the season, team management looked at the sked and the Angels were tasked to take on another team in the season opener. They asked, “Can we instead play the Creamline Coolsmashers?’

If the team was to contend, they wanted to immediately test themselves against the best… the Coolsmashers who were the defending champions.

Petro Gazz knew they handed landed two gems of imports in Cuban national teamer, Wilma Salas, and the high-leaping and scoring Janisa Johnson who local fans first saw with the BaliPure Water Defenders from the previous season.

The angels threw down the gauntlet and they ambushed the Coolsmashers with a three-set win (25-22, 26-24, 25-22) behind Salas’ 20 points and Johnson’s 16. Also playing stellar roles in that opening day win were Jeanette Panaga (nine points) and Cherry Nunag (eight points).

When the Angels closed out the finals series a month and 20 days after that scintillating opening day win, all four Angels including newly activated super sub Jonah Sabete masterfully finished off Creamline in a four-set thriller (25-15, 30-28, 25-23, 25-019).

Five days earlier, things looked a bit bleak as Creamline took Game One when they not only ratcheted up the intensity but they held Salas in check. 

The day after that loss, team management sat down with Petro Gazz head coach Arnolfd Laniog to see how they could turn the series around. They talked about raising the level of intensity to not only match Creamline but to even surpass. Said Laniog, “We will just make a few adjustments because I think we are all right.”

And he wasn’t grasping for straws.

They didn’t play so bad in Game One despite the result. Outside their Big Three of Salas-Johnson-Panaga, the locals outscored their Coolsmashers counterparts, 16-13. More of the locals were getting into the act; something they worked on following the second round loss to Creamline. They were aggressive in Game One, it was just that they committed a whopping 31 errors to Creamline’s 16.

In Game 2, Petro Gazz reversed the tide by blanking Creamline’s imports Kuttika Kaewpin and Aleoscar Blanco leaving only Alyssa Valdez to do the heavy lifting on both offense and defense.

With less than 24 hours after the series-turning Game Two, the momentum rode with Petro Gazz while Creamline had less than 24 hours to shake off the debilitating effects of Game Two.

The Angles continued to roll in set one of game three and only lost set two by two points. They put Creamline on the defensive with their booming serves and tough net and floor defense as led by libero Cienne Cruz. With Kaewpin’s points scattered and Blanco a non-factor, Valdez was left to carry the load. Against a team on fire, flush with confidence and smelling blood, even the Phenom’s prowess wasn’t enough to deny Petro Gazz.

And for championship point, a little misdirection by Laniog forced Creamline to watch Salas but it was Johnson who finished them off. 

In only the second year of the Angles, they have bagged themselves a trophy and con be considered as a top team now. And they do not look to rest there as they are constantly looking for ways to shore up their team. True to their form, they are staying aggressive.

After all, they dared to win.



Sunday, July 14, 2019

Giving Philippine Volleyball A Boost

Giving Volleyball A Boost
by rick olivares

By the time this column is out, the matter of the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference Finals between the Creamline Coolsmashers and the Petro Gazz Angels would have been settled.

Petro Gazz equalized with a four-set win last Saturday, July 13 to send the series to a winner-take-all Sunday Game 3. 

I like the fact the Petro Gazz has taken leaps and bounds to contend for the title. Obviously, Petro Gazz has designs on being the top team in the PVL and that is good. It is good that the Coolsmashers have competition if not a rival.

The last rivalry the PVL had was between BaliPure and Pocari Sweat. The Lady Warriors were looking at a rivalry with Creamline then but the latter club was getting its feet wet in the PVL. They had to wait until they added setter Jia Morado, libero Mel Gohing, and Michelle Gumabao before they won.

The Lady Warriors are now scattered across the league with teams like Motolite, Creamline, Petro Gazz, and BaliPure.

I thought when they “merged” with Philippine Air Force, the signs said they were on their way out. That team was not only winning, but they were also glamorous, and headline-makers.

Well, the finals of this conference will make headlines.

The Angles on the other hand, have accelerated their title ambitions. They not only limited Creamline’s imports in Kuttika Kaewpin and Aleoscar Blanco, but the Angels’ local stepped up too to ensure the win and series extension.

While the competition is good between the two sides, we’d like to see not only more parity but also a steadiness to the PVL roster of teams.

Banko Perlas is the only other tenured team. Pacific Town Army has been in and out. It is ironic considering that not only was Army and the other Armed Forces teams regulars but they carried the torch for volleyball for the longest time. With the popularity of volleyball and the rise of club volleyball and the pro-leagues leagues, the Armed Forces teams have been on the retreat.

They no longer have the best talent.

I think that the PVL should find ways to make their tournaments more economically viable for the clubs’ participation. That there are six teams bears testament to the need not only for parity but also being worth it for the teams.

It is nice to have BaliPure but you’ll never know how long they can continue. This is the fourth iteration of their squad showing a startling lack of continuity unlike Bank Perlas, Creamline, and Petro Gazz.

I love what the PVL is doing and they have done the sport well since the old Shakey’s V-League days. But times have changed and they too must adapt. I am happy that in my brief tenure with them, I managed to suggest and bring back the All-Star Game. There needs to be continuity.

I do hope that this hotly-contested final between Creamline and Petro Gazz brings is not only more fans but also interest and support for the game and the league. What helps them also helps local volleyball (along with what the PSL is doing).

At the end of the day, it is a good time to be a sports and volleyball fan.


Sunday, June 30, 2019

Growing Pains for Bacolod



Growing Pains for Bacolod
by rick olivares

There was exactly one second left on the shot clock when Paolo Javellona threw up a 26-foot three-point shot that swished right through the nets to put the Bacolod Master Sardines within a bucket of the fancied Makati Super Crunch, 69-66; 6:36 left to play.

Bacolod forced a turnover on Makati in the next play, but Jopher Custodio’s triple failed to find the mark. After a free throw that the Super Crunch’s Jeckster Apinan tacked on for a four-point lead, Bacolod’s Jerome Ortega drove down the right baseline to slice the lead in half, 70-68, 3:54 left. 

Bacolod’s bench erupted in celebration. 

Makati threatened to pull away as they went up 77-68 with 2:13 to play, but just as they did all game long, triples from Bacolod kept them close as Custodio and Javellona’s back-to-back threes put them once more within a shot, 77-74 with 1:15 to play.

Makati closed out the game with a 7-0 run as Bacolod self-destructed with two consecutive turnovers and three straight missed shots.

Makati won, 84-74, for their second win in as many games while Bacolod evened out their slate to 1-1 (they defeated the Mindoro Tamaraws in the MBPL debut, 87-83). 

Although a loss, much can be said about Bacolod’s effort. They were formed barely two weeks before the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League’s Lakan Cup tipped off. Many of their players aren’t even in any semblance of shape. Former Perpetual Help Altas forward Justine Alano who was one of that team’s Fab Four alongside Juneric Baloria (playing for Makati), Scottie Thompson (Barangay Ginebra), and Harold Arboleda (Zamboanga in the MPBL) joined the team a week ago. Though undersized, he is feisty inside and a very good rebounder and passer. “Gusto ko tumulong pero wala pa ako sa kundisyon,” he said. 

At the half time break with Makati leading, 34-24, Bacolod head coach Vic Ycasiano, who is no stranger to adversity, asked his team why they were running away from their game plan. “Bakit tayo nagmamadali?” he asked. “Meron tayong sistema. I-half court natin. Kasi kung mabilisan, laro nila yan.”  

Without his team in tip-top game shape, he wanted to conserve them for the game. “We look for the open man and pass that ball around. Hanap ng butas,” he said. Ycasiano won a NAASCU title with STI and with National University in the UAAP as an assistant to Eric Altamirano. Both those teams struggled before they ascended to the summit. He knows that it isn’t going to be easy especially with teams like San Juan, Manila, and Makati getting the jump on star players.

They do have Mac Tallo who not only has a chip on his should but has something to prove. There’s Javellona who was solid for NU during his UAAP days, but the rest are all role players Former Adamson Falcon Jan Colina who was with Altamirano and Ycasiano with the Flying V Thunder in the D-League isn’t the player he was in the UAAP as he has spent more time in the Philippine Army than playing basketball. Outside the UAAP, Custodio was a star for Manuel L. Quezon University and got to play with KIA in the PBA. 

Jerome Ortega starred for AMA Computer College also in NAASCU.

Haddi Porto played for Ycasiano with STI and was a part of the Olympians’ title team. Arnold Danganan who was not allowed to play by table officials as his paperwork was not allegedly submitted to the league played for the Altas alongside Alano.

“We’re like a patched up team,” said Ycasiano. “But when we are able to get this team in shape and understanding what we want to do – lalaban kami. We will hit our stride a few weeks from now. Hopefully, we don’t do too badly.”

After the loss to Makati, Javellona said, “Kaya naman namin. We made some mistakes lang. But we will learn. Sayang lang. We could have won this.”

As the team made their way into their locker room at the Filoil flying V Centre in San Juan, Ycasiano nodded. He knew his boys gave it their best this game despite all the shortcomings. But the competitor in him made him wince. “Growing pains,” he muttered. Then he entered the dugout.


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. 

Superstitious?

“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.