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, September 12, 2018

Looking at Ateneo’s 1st round win vs UP

Looking at Ateneo’s 1st round win vs UP
by rick olivares

If you are an Ateneo fan, there are two ways to respond to this 87-79 win over the University of the Philippines…

Remark, “This is how we should have played Adamson,” and two, heave a sigh of relief, and exclaim, “Let’s get it on!”

A loss would have been unthinkable. When was the last time an Ateneo team went down to 0-2 to start the season?

You have to go back to 2013. 

Now what was different in this game for the Blue Eagles?

First of all, it was the intensity.
A backs-against-the-wall feeling. You could see the sense of urgency. It was in the body language.

I felt that they got going when Angelo Kouame came out and played. Flat out played. He was snarling. Dunking. Grabbing boards. And swatting shots.

I think that the Blue Eagles were a little miffed by the physicality. I was surprised to see even UP’s Paul Desiderio pushing off.

Note to all, when Ange plays well, the rest of the team does too. That’s because he’s their rim protector (when Thirdy Ravena is playing the perimeter). And he runs the break too. So when Matt Nieto rewarded him for the trailer job and a rim rattling dunk… look out below.

Speaking of dunks…. Another player who gave Ateneo a massive lift was Thirdy Ravena. Those were vicious dunks. Vicious. That’s the term.

I was fortunate enough to see all of Bong Ravena’s games when he was with UE and he was like that. Except that Thirdy attacks the rim with more power. Bong was like a jet fighter. He’d sidestep or slither his way in them rattle that rim. Thirdy? He punishes the rim.

And Ateneo began to attack the basket. Something they didn’t do against Adamson. There were moments when some players launched a few shots when they should have gone in and Coach Tab Baldwin called them out for that.

From the get go, it was obvious that UP wanted to test Ateneo’s interior. They scored 44 inside points to Ateneo’s 28. They definitely have to look into that again.

Having said all this, the intensity begat a higher commitment to defense.
Defensive rebounds:
Ateneo – 28
UP – 24

2nd chance points
Ateneo - 17
UP – 11

Ateneo – 8
UP – 5


Ateneo - 16
UP – 17

Ateneo – 7
UP – 0

Ateneo – 11
UP - 24

During UP’s opening day win over UE, they had seven players scoring in the fourth period. Against Ateneo, UP only had four put points on the board in the final frame. 

Against Adamson, Ateneo only had four players scoring in the fourth period. Against UP, they had six scorers in the fourth quarter.

Some instances we have to point out, Jolo Mendoza and Anton Asistio -- not exactly known for their defense – getting huge stops. That was simply pride.

The Man in the Middle showed up.
The road to any championship is paved by that man in the middle. In 1987-88, there was Danny Francisco. In 2002, Enrico Villanueva. From 2008-09 there was Rabeh Al-Hussaini. In 2010, it was Justin Chua. Then from 2011-12, Greg Slaughter. In 2017, it was Chibueze Ikeh who didn’t play an overpowering season statistically, but was solid and effective. Ikeh averaged 7.5 points and 8.6 points and 1.0 assists in 20 minutes per game. He helped frustrate and contain DLSU’s Ben Mbala.

You might argue that Ikeh’s numbers were small compared to the double digit scoring of the others. In case you do not remember, during the 2010 season – the bridge to the five-peat – Chua averaged 9.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks also in 20 minutes per game. Backing him up were Frank Golla, JP Erram, and Jason Escueta. Ateneo had a four-headed monster at the center slot.

Ikeh, of course, had superb help from Isaac Go and Kris Porter.

And now, there is Kouame. I am not suggesting that he is an all-time great. After all, he has only two games under his UAAP account (he does have several other titles won in other tourneys to go with Most Valuable Player Awards) but his potential is undeniable.

Ange was clearly a handful against UP counterpart Bright Akhuetie who played great as well.
Kouame: 14 points (50% shooting), 9 rebounds, 5 blocks vs. 3 turnovers.
Akhuetie: 8 points (40%), 11 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 steals

He really changed many a UP shot. At one point, he was late in getting back and Akhuetie had a path to the basket, but Kouame caught up and rejected the shot.

Kouame’s performance underscored his importance to the overall effort. I like the fact that Isaac Go, not as fast as Akhuetie and got burned twice off layups, came back to block a reverse lay-up.

They got him twice, but third time was definitely not the charm.

Better rotation of players.
I sat next to a former Ateneo player and we discussed the rotation of players during the game. We agreed it was much better this time around (although we did wonder why Ange had to come out at one point just when he got his rhythm). But, everything else was spot on. Including the late substitution in of Aaron Black who got a stop off Jarrell Lim.

We kind of rationalized that the loss to Adamson is okay. At least we have our work cut out for us and we know that we are beatable. It was actually a shitty loss. You want to pound foes into submission; win close ones and ugly games. You don’t want foes to smell blood in the water (or give them any confidence).

During the five-peat, there were games that even before they were played you know it was game over. This was an impressive win and Ateneo wasn’t even at full throttle. There are kinks that need to be worked out (of course, it is the same for UP), but getting back on the winning tracks does a lot for the team’s confidence.


Additional reading:

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Gab Daganon hopes for the best with the Bataan Risers

Gab Daganon hopes for the best with the Bataan Risers
by rick olivares

When current Bataan Risers forward Gab Daganon looks at his former teammate Scottie Thompson’s success with Barangay Ginebra and now being in the national team pool, he’s happy. That’s another kid from North Cotobato done good.

Daganon hails from the same province and was teammates with Thompson from high school, Agro Industrial Foundation College of the Philippines in Davao City and at the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta for college. Both Thompson and Daganon grew up watching Peter June Simon who hails from the same area. Simon served as an inspiration for the two in their respective games.

If there is one thing that Daganon wishes is that he was able to win a NCAA title with Thompson. When Daganon was playing, he had for teammates Justine Alano, Harold Arboleda, Juneric Baloria, and Thompson. The Fantastic Four as they were called as they beat teams. Daganon and current UE Red Warrior Ric Gallardo were on that team as well. When Alano, Arboleda, and Baloria graduated, Bright Akhuetie and Prince Eze moved up.

“Sayang, hindi kami nagsabay sabay,” said Daganon with a tinge of remorse. “May chance kami kung ganun.”

If a college title eluded him, Daganon cannot help but be excited at the prospect of winning one with the Bataan Risers; his team in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League. At 6-1, the Risers are one of the best teams in the 26-team league.

Of late, Daganon has contributed to his team’s six-match win streak. One that they hope to extend when they play Valenzuela at the Bataan People’s Center this Wednesday, September 13.

“Wala ako masabi sa Bataan,” gushed the forward. “Ang ganda ng suporta ng hindi lang ng management pati na rin yung mga taga-Bataan. Iba itong team na ito sa lahat na napasama ako. At sobrang okay mga teammates ko. Hindi player ang turing namin sa isa’t isa kung ‘di, pamilya; magkakapatid mula sa coaches at management hanggang sa players. So sa aming mga players gusto naming isukli na maganda.”

“Sa pinapakita ng team namin, may chance kami lumaban. Kung ganito lang at tuloy tuloy, good chance ‘yan,”

When Daganon thinks of his old team with Thompson, he recalls the hardships and sacrifices. But he is happy it all gone well for his former teammate. Now, he hopes with the hard work, sacrifices, and good vibes of his Bataan team, it will also pay off now for him.

“Ang basketbol ay maganda para sa akin kasi nabigyan ako ng edukasyon at kinabukasan. Kaya hanggang ngayon, buhos ang binibigay ko sa larong ito. At sa Bataan.”

Monday, September 10, 2018

My thoughts about Adamson’s Opening Day win over Ateneo

My thoughts about Ateneo's Opening Day loss
by rick olivares

Now that was a disappointing 74-70 loss to Adamson. But massive props to them. They worked for that win and they deserve it.

As the game was unfolding, when it became apparent that Ateneo had not checked Adamson, I started to think back to 2012, when the Blue Eagles, highly rated heading into the UAAP season, fell to UST, 71-70.

After winning its fourth UAAP title during the five-peat, Ateneo won in succession – the University Games and the Fr. Martin Cup. They had played in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League title game but lost to Calvin Abueva and the San Sebastian Stags. That didn’t dent anyone’s views from naming them as prohibitive favorites.

And so there was that Opening Day loss to UST who they got back in a hotly contested and highly controversial second round game before meeting up again in the finals.

That was then, this is now.

Ateneo, like any other team, won a smattering of preseason tournaments and had a stellar showing in the William Jones Cup. This team has had its share of great wins and ugly wins as well. And ugly losses too.

This was one of them.

Sure, it’s the opening game. And the UAAP is really what you play for more than any other league (save perhaps the William Jones Cup). But it is a loss and there are things to take away from it.

Too many three-point attempts.
Thirty-five attempts is just too much. Sure, some were taken in the flow of the offense, others were what the Falcons gave, while others were… well, bad.

But 35 three-point attempts to the 36 of the two-point variety. What kept us in the game were those late free throws where Ateneo shot 15 attempts to Adamson’s three.

As we have said before, when Ateneo shoots well from the outside, they play well. But having said that I thought even as the first quarter was being played, they should have gone inside more. Adamson wanted to go in and test Ateneo right away.

It is just my belief – and I don’t know what the team rules are -- that we should try to attack the interior as early as we can because the shots are of higher percentage, you fish for fouls and mess up their rotation, and you will open the game. Adamson, in fairness and upon first glance, worked those passing lanes that stymied the sleek passing game, but still, I thought we should have attacked inside first.

Let’s be clear, I cannot fault the late misses from the Nieto brothers or from Isaac Go. Those are their plays and they have hit the mark before. It’s fine. I just thought that the team should have gone in early. Matt Nieto showed the way later on, but there was this feel of desperation. The others didn’t follow suit.

By the time, Ateneo decided to go in – and meron halong malas kasi maraming mintis sa loob -- Adamson knew they were in the game and weren’t going to be blown out.

On the other hand, Adamson’s Jerrick Ahanmisi scored what I call those James Yap shots – difficult and long toms – that should they fall, I’d say, it’s their day. It isn’t scientific, just a feel. Alam mo yung kasabihan na kahit ano ibato pasok. Those were one of those days.

The Blue Eagles lost the man in the middle.
Give Angelo Kouame a pass. After all, he is still a kid even if he is so darn tall. Hahahaha. And the UAAP is a different animal. Angelo finished with one point, 11 rebounds, and four blocked shots in 18 minutes. Not bad, but his influence in the game was sporadic at best. He is a huge reason why Ateneo did so well in the preseason and the William Jones Cup. But make no mistake, he’ll play better after this game.

Loss of composure, turnovers and not getting the rebounds or loose balls.
This was what surprised me more than anything. Losses will happen. And that win streak against Adamson is eventually going to end again. Watching them, the calm that is usually on their faces wasn’t as Adamson wasn’t going away.

When Ateneo took the lead in the second, the turnovers hurt them and both squads traded five-point runs. Ultimately, the Falcons got the job done and went to the halftime break leading. That replayed itself in the endgame.

There was this instance that typified Adamson’s desire to win the game. There was a turnover by William Navarro and one where the players just looked at the ball drop and Sean Manganti scooped in to get the ball and pitch it out for an Ahanmisi triple.

They wanted it more, plain and simple.

Adamson won the battle of the boards 52-48 and the war in the paint saw them outscore Ateneo 32-22 (both teams were at 26-all from the perimeter). Their inside strength saw them gain more second chance points 17-10.

Turnover-wise, Adamson scored 15 turnover points to the Blue Eagles’ 8.

In a reverse kind of way, a loss early jars them back into reality. Unfortunately, with Hell Week upon the Blue Eagles, the game this Wednesday against UP, raises the stakes. The pressure intensifies. UP is flush with confidence. Ateneo needs to put that loss behind quickly and attend to the task at hand. Even with FEU on deck for the weekend, they have to take it one game at a time.

Ateneo has to embrace the pressure. It is like that. You win titles. You upgrade. 

It is no different from La Salle getting Ben Mbala and trouncing the opposition in the preseason by a mile. It is no different from Lyceum winning last year's Philippine Collegiate Champions League and the D-League that makes them favorites to finally annex their first NCAA Seniors crown. It is no different from the moment Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors that made them favorites to win the NBA title. More so now that they have Demarcus Cousins. It is no different from Juventus signing Cristiano Ronaldo. Not to win the Serie A (that is the minimum requirement), but to win the UEFA Champions League. Juventus is 3-0 to start the new Serie A season but Ronaldo has yet to find the back of the net.

The pressure and the tag of favorites comes with being defending champions. It comes with the territory.

To sum it up, it’s a rather disappointing loss. But right now, the team has to look forward. And we’ve seen this before. They’ll learn from this.

We hope. We believe.