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.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

UAAP Finals: Looking at FEU’s Game One win over UST

This appears on

Looking at FEU’s Game One win over UST
by rick olivares

How big was that Game One win by FEU over UST?

It comes at a big time especially after taking two losses to the Growling Tigers in the elimination round and two not so great performances heading into the Finals.

While one could say that they accomplished the same thing by taking Game One of the Season 77 Finals against NU (they lost the next two games), these are somewhat different circumstances.

For one, it arrested the assertion of their propensity to choke. This past season taught the Tamaraws many things - bouncing back from a terrible loss (that followed a big win), winning close games, comeback from deficits, and bucking poor performances from key players. It seems that Nash Racela’s boys have found the right ingredients for a championship recipe. Now if they can serve a winning dessert…

In their two elimination round matches with Bong dela Cruz’s Growling Tigers, I previously pointed out that there was no rhyme or reason to winning the rebounding battle etc. It came down to starter points, inside points, second chance points and UST’s ability to comeback.

How did that play out in Game One?

Starter points: UST outscored FEU’s 46-37 (the Tams’ first five scoring is down because Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo have been coming off the bench of late).

Inside Points: equal at 34 each (FEU’s Prince Orizu and Russel Escoto had better than 50% field goal accuracy inside)

Second chance points: FEU enjoyed a whopping 56-32 advantage on the boards with the Tamaraws scoring 17 second chance points (UST managed 11). Those six more points sure helped especially those rim rattling putbacks by Orizu.

Coming back: UST came back from the deficit but FEU successfully beat them back with their late fourth period stand. This is huge for FEU’s collective psyche that they held and answered the Tigers’ spirited rally.

Here are some things that turned the tide for FEU:

FEU received a lot of contributions. Five players scored in double digits beginning with Roger Pogoy’s 15 and followed by Mike Tolomia’s 14, Mac Belo’s 13, Russel Escoto’s 12, and Prince Orizu’s 10. It should be noted that this is the first time against UST this campaign where FEU’s Big Three of Tolomia, Belo, and Pogoy all scored in double figures.

FEU played better as a team. The Tamaraws tallied more assists, 13-5. That really helps when the ball is whipped around.

One other thing… Ed Daquioag was missing for UST. Ed, who has been a huge pillar of strength for the Growling Tigers this season, where he averaged 16.4 points, 5.6 points, 2.2 assists,1.1 steals versus 3.4 turnovers. In Game One of this year’s championship series, Daquioag compiled four points and five rebounds to go with four turnovers in an effective 24 minutes of action. He’s had consecutive tough outings in the last two matches including the Final Four win over NU. In those two games, he’s averaged 6.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. Not bad but poor by his standards. In fact, he’s struggled this second round as teams have geared up to stop those lane incursions.

That is the fourth consecutive Finals match dating back to Season 76 where Daquioag hasn’t done much.
Season 76 Finals Game One - four points
Season 76 Finals Game Two - zero points
Season 76 Finals Game Three - DNP

For sure Karim Abdul and Kevin Ferrer cannot do it alone. If they want to extend the series to a winner-take-all match, Daquioag must fire on all cylinders with the other two also making heavy contributions.

The two pertinent questions heading into Game Two will be: can FEU erase years of futility and close it out or does UST have another comeback in them? 

It is going to be even more explosive.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

UAAP Season 78 Finals Preview: UST Growling Tigers vs FEU Tamaraws

This appears on

UAAP Finals Preview: UST vs FEU
by rick olivares

It seems only right that the best two teams in the UAAP this year clash for the title. The University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers was somewhat not expected to be here yet they are and are massive favorites to win their first championship since 2006.

The Far Eastern University Tamaraws were the pre-season favorite to annex their first championship since 2005, however, a late season slide, not to mention two elimination round losses to UST have placed them once more as underdogs.

Both finished identical 11-3 records but the Tigers got the first seed owing to their two victories over the Tamaraws. Both had contrasting wins in getting to the Finals but what is important is hey are here now.

A little history
The Season 78 championship will be the first battle between the two in the championship since 1979 when FEU defeated UST, 100-89 behind head coach Arturo Valenzona with his stars Anthony Williams and Bai Cristobal who currently assists in supervising the officials in the league in addition to being the current NCAA commissioner.

UST at that time was called the Glowing Goldies and were coached by Rogelio Serafico who had been around long enough to know heartbreak at the hands of Baby Dalupan and the UE Warriors. His version of the Big Three was Ed Cordero who played for Toyota in the PBA and is currently an assistant to Atoy Co in Mapua, and their backcourt combo of Frank Natividad and Edmund Yee. 

During that year, ironically also with UP as the host school, Cordero was severely weakened by the flu and that told heavily on UST’s chances in the finals.

A look at the UST Growling Tigers (12-3 including their Final Four win over NU)
They have their own Big Three with another 6’4” shooter like Ed Cordero in Kevin Ferrer. Unlike their 1979 counterpart that didn’t have a center, the current Tigers have Karim Abdul. And there’s swingman Ed Daquioag. They are ably backed up by Jon Sheriff, Louie Vigil, Mario Bonleon, and Marvin Lee. 

What you have to like about UST’s offense is how seamless their offense is. Even with Ferrer and Daquioag, the ball moves around quickly. They couldn’t really care who scores. Like their recent counterparts, they have solid players in key positions making them a tough match up for anyone. Marvin Lee is the pleasant surprise carrying over his scoring feats from high school as a FEU Baby Tamaraw. 

They are dangerous because they have five players who were their team’s top scorers for their high school teams so they know something about carrying their respective sides — Ferrer, Vigil, Mario Bonleon, Lee, and Renzo Subido. What I love about their system again is that they don’t mind giving the ball to other players to take shots. They are perfectly comfortable with what each one can contribute. Save for the post play to Karim, the do not need to make eye contact when passing the ball around. It just goes around and that is fun to watch when you root for them and enough for others to go, “uh on” if you’re for the other team.

They like to play a man-zone that switches to a 1-3-1 with Ferrer playing cleanup. Not a particularly deep team but as in years past, they have at least two of the best five players in the league with a solid center.

A look at the FEU Tamaraws (12-3 including their Final Four win over Ateneo)
They didn’t look too impressive in the last few games even if they fashioned out some big nail-biting wins. 

In all stats, FEU leads UST but that is a misnomer as the latter defeated them in their two elimination round meetings. So you know they have their work cut out for them.

During the first round meeting, UST squeaked past FEU 72-71 in a comeback win (they were spotted a late four-point lead). Their second round encounter also saw the Tigers of Bong dela Cruz erase an first quarter double digit deficit to win comfortably, 85-76.

FEU’s last couple of wins saw Roger Pogoy play heads up ball late in the game. If FEU wants to win, they need Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo playing terrific and consistent basketball.

They have a deeper bench but that so far hasn’t counted for much versus UST. To say in the vernacular, parang mas buo loob ng USTe.

But this is a darn good team. The question is can they put it all together here and now?

The match-up
Looking at the two match-ups, there are four areas that we can glean from the stats.

The first are the starter points. UST’s starting unit outscored FEU’s on both occasions: 54-43 in the first round, and 60-28 in the second round. Save for Roger Pogoy who fouled out in the second meeting no other Tam was in foul trouble each time. That means they were rather ineffective while on the floor. UST’s top three players heavily contributed in both wins while for FEU’s Big Three of Mike Tolomia, Mac Belo, and Roger Pogoy, one of them was missing in at least one match.

The second is the inside points category: UST came ahead both times, 40-28 and 26-20. The Tigers just love to attack FEU’s interior especially in the fourth quarter where the Tigers are a combined 7-14 to the 3-7 of the Tamaraws.

Third is second chance points category where the Tigers have done better: 11-4 and 6-5. In close matches, this counts for a lot.

And fourth and last is that UST knows it can come back. In the two matches, FEU posted leads that were quickly erased. Now that’s powerful. The Tigers know they can handle the early pressure and withstand the Tamaraws’ barrage. FEU so far doesn’t know if they can rally from a deficit. 

The odds on favorite to win it all is UST so the onus is on FEU to take Game One and try and close it out in Game Two. But right now, Kevin Ferrer and company are top faves to end years of heartbreak.

My suggestions for the next head coach for the Ateneo Blue Eagles

This appears on

My suggestions for the next head coach for the Ateneo Blue Eagles
by rick olivares

With the end of the season for the Ateneo Blue Eagles, the rebuilding process continues. Gone is Bo Perasol and some members of the coaching staff. There are some immediate questions — do they participate in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League and who will play considering some if not many of them will need to catch up with their studies. But the more important question is — who will be the 37th head coach of the Ateneo Blue Eagles?

While the search committee has yet to be formed, what would be ideal for the team is to have the new coach in place by January 2016.

Who are the possible candidates?

Your guess is as good as mine. Here are just some of my ideas on who I think could be tasked to steer the Blue Eagles through the next few years.

I eliminated the impossible such as Leo Austria and Olsen Racela who will not be easy to extricate from the San Miguel Corporation group as well as Alex Compton who is currently head coach of Alaska.

Personally, the criteria I would set are:
Must already possess a coaching background; doesn’t have to be a veteran coach.
Must be respectable because that will help in the recruiting.
Must have won a championship either as a player or as coach preferably in college, amateurs, or the pros.
Must be able to teach and work well with the players.
I do not believe he should be an alumnus because really — how many good Atenean coaches are out there and who are available?

Having said that, there are two former Blue Eagles who are currently not tied up with any team.

Chot Reyes
Former Blue Eagle star who was a Mythical Five selection in the UAAP (1983). Coached Ateneo in the early 1990s before he departed for the pros where he was an assistant with Alaska. Has since stuffed his resume with five PBA Coach of the Year awards as well as eight PBA championships with Purefoods, Coca Cola, and Talk ’N Text to name a few of his accomplishments. Has coached the national team on several occasions where they have won gold, silver, and bronze medals.

Why he would be an excellent coach? 
He understands what it is like to play and coach for Ateneo. Been there; done that. He is brilliant strategist and an excellent motivator. A winner. And with his resume — he will be able to recruit.

Any concerns?
Well, he is like Jose Mourinho who draws attention to himself and that can be very distracting.

Vince Hizon
Star swingman for Ateneo in the early 1990s. First game against La Salle, he scored a phenomenal 44 points. Turned pro after a year of college ball. Was on Purefoods’ bench but after a year was traded to Ginebra where he became a big star. Won one PABL, four PBA, and one SEA Games gold medal.

Was been an assistant for Adamson the past three years; first with Kenneth Duremdes and now with Mike Fermin. His contract with the school is expiring so he is available. Currently the Commissioner of the Filsports Basketball Association. Unsuccessfully ran for the post of PBA Commissioner after Chito Salud stepped down.

Why he would be an excellent coach?
Is a winner and is so filled with positivity. Did a lot of individual work with Adamson’s Papi Sarr and Joseph Nalos (not taking away anything from Mike Fermin who did a great job). The results are evident in their game. The two led Adamson this past season. 

Any concerns?
Not enough experience in coaching.

Louie Alas
Former Adamson star who won championships in the PABL with Tanduay ESQ and Army Junglefighters. Was drafted by Purefoods during its first year in the pros. Unfortunately, was unable due to a career-ending injury. Made a name for himself coaching the Manila Metrostars to the MBA title in 1999 where they won 22-consecutive games. He was named the MBA’s Coach of the Year. He joined Mobiline (later Talk ’N Text) where he led them to respectable finishes. Coached Letran to three titles (1998, 2003, 2005) and a couple of second place finishes. Led Toyota-Otis to a PBL Finals berth where they lost to the star-studded Harbour Center Portmasters.

Why he will make an excellent coach?
He’s been a winner all his life and he knows a thing or two about taking teams with nary a faction of the budget that Ateneo has and turning them into winners. Look at the players he has recruited — Kevin Racal, Aaron Aban, Mark Andaya, Ronjay Enrile, Rey Guevarra to name a few. So imagine if he had that working budget...

He’s also coached star-studded teams such as the Manila Metrostars where he had Alex Compton and Rommel Adducul as players. Now he plays a crucial role as Compton’s assistant in Alaska.

Any concerns?
Some people see the sheer physicality of the Letran Knights. Well, if you don’t have any budget, then you make the most of what you have. Has an eye for talent.

Boyet Fernandez
It is my media colleague and fellow Atenean Jasmine Payo who first broached the idea of tapping Boyet Fernandez as a possible candidate. We discussed that right before a UAAP match after which some others caught wind of the idea and wrote about it.

Went to Colegio de San Agustin in Bacolod where he starred. Was a star guard for the Sta. Lucia Realtors where he won as a player and as a head coach. Picked up the slack for Aboy Castro for the UP Fighting Maroons years ago. Joined San Beda where he won back-to-back titles and has won numerous D-League titles with NLEX. Now head coach of NLEX in the PBA.

Why he would be an excellent head coach?
Boyet is a patient and a gentleman of a coach. Very respectful and doesn’t like to call attention to himself. Has a very good work ethic. Loves to do scouting himself and works hard on game plans. Humble and a nice guy on and off the court.

Any concerns?
Too nice a guy! But that’s not such a bad thing at all.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A last interview with Ateneo head coach Bo Perasol

Top picture with Bo Perasol on the day that he was officially introduced to the Ateneo community - December 12, 2012 12-12-12. That shot was at the ground floor of the MVP Center where the documentary that I worked on, The Drive for Five, was premiered. The photo below is roughly an hour after the Final Four loss to FEU right before I conducted the interview that follows. So I was there for his first and last day.

A last interview with Ateneo head coach Bo Perasol
by rick olivares

About an hour after the loss to FEU, I sat down with Bo Perasol in the adjacent dugout next to Ateneo’s for a post-season interview. 

Rick: Coach, what was running through your head in those last seconds of the game?

Bo: There were only two things on my mind, Adrian (Wong) was going to make the shot or he was going to be fouled. It was unfortunate, I don’t know if there was a foul or none at all. I am not sure I want to see the replay because what good will it do when it is over? Those were the things running in my mind.

When it came down to that last shot by Belo, in my mind, I quickly reviewed our game plan. It was a part of my pre-game huddle with them that rebounding was key and limiting second chances. And that’s what hurt us. And it really hurt us in this game.

Rick: You mean to say even as the game was over you were still thinking of the play?

Bo: A little. It was over very quickly. I knew that Belo’s shot counted. And my mind was thinking... part of it… well, hindi ko na sure what went on. I was thinking was it over? I have to make sure that I congratulate the other team and the people who I need to say thank you. To gather the team for the singing of the alma mater song...

Rick: Yeah, sometimes you aren’t prepared for those moments. I mean who is prepared? 

Bo: Oo nga. It was a blur those minutes. You want to remember each and every moment but your mind is trying to process what was going on.

Rick: Coach, how would you describe the past three years for you in Ateneo?

Bo: Time seemed so fast. There were days when it seemed to take forever and there were days like it was too fast. However, as I shared in the dugout after the game, if I had to rewind and knowing what’s going to happen in the next three years with all the heartaches and criticism and going back to the moment where I was asked to coach Ateneo, I would say, "a double yes.” Yes, I would still take the job. There is no difference in coaching in the professional or the college ranks, the criticism is always there. You just hope to do a good job.

For me personally, one of the best things was the journey that I went through.

It is different when you deal with the pro players than the student-athletes. The professional players are more or less finished products. The student-athletes, you affect their lives in a manner that they will carry in their individual lives. 

Having said that, I want to tell Hubert, Arvin, and everyone else that their time will come if you have the right attitude and continue to work hard. You are the best of your batch but you will have to prove it. Some times I wish I could do more, give more, help them… there isn’t all the time to do that.  In that aspect, I would like to think that I influenced them positively. I hope I did.

Rick: Unfortunately, coaching, and coaching any team for that matter, comes with its pitfalls like criticism etc.

Bo: It is the nature of competition to bring out the best and the worst. A lot of people will malign you but what is important is you realize their opinions matter to them but you shouldn’t let it affect you. If you can use some of those points that are made -- but you have to remove the hurtful words — and those points help improve what you do, then it is all good. 

It is unfortunate that I wasn’t able to deliver a championship. I know the winning is important too. But sometimes, not making it prepares you for the next phase in life. I hope the next coach will be able to build on what we’ve started though.

Rick: You brought us to within two baskets of making it to the Finals the past two years...

Bo: Yeah. (nods) I guess… it wasn’t meant to be. But my players were able to bounce back from all the distractions from this season and we managed to give FEU a good fight. We kept coming closer and closer to winning it. We have to take comfort that we played some great basketball in these years and that we brought in some key players who will help Ateneo in the next few years.

Rick: Talking about years, is there a highlight for you in these three years? Could be one or two or more. That depends on you. 

Bo: I think the best moment would be this year and this game because it models our resiliency. it is what I wanted to impart to our players. Of course, FEU is more experienced and more skilled at some positions. But we were able to claw our way back and that is what I wanted to do — to play grind it out basketball. And that is what I can say about my tenure, it is to compete and fight back when there is adversity.

Maraming aspects to consider when trying to accomplish what the community wants but we cannot have it all.

Rick: Do you feel that the Ateneo alumni were unfair to you?

Bo: Kahit saan naman meron expectations. In the pros, in UP, and Ateneo. And in other schools too. It would have been nice to have the alumni behind my back. Sometimes, I didn’t feel the support. But meron din. I told you this before. One of the best things to happen these past few years is the friendships I have made. I met people who I never met before and they are there for you.

Ikaw naman ang tatanungin ko, meron ba highlight para sa yo?

Rick: Oo naman. The shoe is on the other foot. (laughter from both)

Marami eh. This season alone is the best for me. Tama ka… yung resiliency. But one other that stands out for me is the La Salle game in your first year where you went after a couple of people in the crowd.

Bo: (laughs) 

Rick: Sabi ko, tangina, heto yung coach namin makikipagaway sa kalaban. Makikipaglaban din ako para sa kanya.

Bo: Alam mo naman tayong mga taga-Katipunan. Kaya tayo mga taga-Katipunan.

Rick: Seriously now… sorry I have to ask this… is there a low point too? Could be a game?

Bo: I think if there is an experience na masakit sa akin — only time will tell, ang anxiety ko is how will I be able to get the best of the players that I recruited because i was responsible for them. But my experience is it will take time. In the PBA you draft them they are ready to play. Dito parang gusto ma-meet expectations ng mga player because they have so much belief in what they can do but it doesn’t turn out that way. You feel for them but they should understand that real life is like this. You have to work hard and more often than not, work harder to get what you want.

Rick: How would you describe or sum up your time in Ateneo?

Bo: (pauses for about a minute) Eventful. Very eventful. That is the word. It didn’t have the ending that I would have wanted but on a personal note, it pushed me to grow some more. In these years, ilan beses na ako gusto itapon — after my first year, after my second year, in the middle of my third year. 

Rick: That sucks.

Bo: Well… as I said earlier, it is about resiliency. It isn’t simply terms of wins and losses because championships matter. But I am glad that the people who make the decisions realize the situation we were in and that I was doing the right thing. The direction is there. 

What a journey though.

Rick: So what is next for Bo Perasol?

Bo: Hindi ko pa alam what is going to happen next but I would really like to take time out and think of what to do. 

I just want to say this — marami pa ako nakilala who stayed with you. Isa ka na roon. It is your job to analyze what we do but it is objective. Thank you for that and the support. People who know me on a personal level know that is not about me but about the team and the community. I really wanted to help and I hope I did.

It didn’t end the way I wanted it to end. I would have been nice to have sent the series to a do-or-die match.

(pauses) But we did give them (FEU) One Big Fight.


Additional reading: Down from the Hill: My thoughts following Ateneo's Final Four loss to FEU.

Down from the hill: My thoughts after Ateneo's Final Four loss to FEU.

This appears in the Monday, November 23, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.

Down from the hill: My thoughts after Ateneo's Final Four loss to FEU.
by rick olivares

First of all, let me offer my congratulations to FEU. Good luck in the Finals.

Now that is out of the way, where do you begin after a painful loss like this?

You think, think some more and there are multiple images. 

You have to start with the dizzying last few seconds where Adrian Wong hightailed it down the court for what should or could have been a game winning layup. He missed (I thought that he got fouled by Monbert Arong). All I know is that Mac Belo scored with less than a second left and for the second straight season, Ateneo is ousted in the final play of the game.

I saw Coach Nash Racela race to the court with his fist up high then he suddenly realized that he was right in front of the Ateneo bench and he put on the breaks and began to shake hands. Some folks got angry at what seemed like a sign of disrespect but in all honesty, I doubt if he meant any jab.

There was Wong walking to the bench and punching the seat. He let out a cry of anguish. He could have won it for Ateneo but he bungled a layup that gave the ball to FEU one last time wherein they scored right at the buzzer. Mike Tolomia walked over to console him.

And my mind raced back to that Ateneo-UST game from 1985 when Pido Jarencio caught fire in the last few minutes dousing the slim Blue Eagle lead. That win ended Ateneo's chance of catching up to them for the right to play UE. With less than a minute left in the game and UST in firm control, Aric Del Rosario pulled out Jarencio but the King Glowing Goldie didn’t go to his bench but to Ateneo’s where he shook the hand of each and every player and said that their time will come.

Thirty years later, it is almost the same scenario. Except it is Tolomia consoling Wong and Matt Nieto who were both crying on the bench. Tolomia told them that their time will come. It is an eerie moment of deja vu. For when Pido Jarencio made that gesture, Jet Nieto, the father of Matt and Mike, was on the Blue Eagles’ bench. Two years after that, Jet was part of Ateneo’s first UAAP title team (and they won back-to-back championships).

There were the parents of the players. Some in tears, some in shock that it is all over. Some are angry at what they perceived was a crucial non-call during Wong’s layup attempt. Outside the coliseum, FEU freshman Wendell Comboy makes mano to the parents of Matt and Mike Nieto.

There was Bo Perasol who after the singing of the alma mater wanted to go forward to the Ateneo gallery and wave and say his goodbyes. But he was unsure of himself or if it would be all right. He turned to go to the dugout. I wanted to bring him to the front but the moment passed us by. And I apologized to him for not doing it when we talked inside the locker room post-match. 

Can you imagine that? That’s terrible.

Talk about missed opportunities. 

The concern of the coaching staff prior to the game was the rebounding battle. We lost badly, 45-33 with a 20-9 discrepancy on the offensive glass. None more damaging than that offensive rebound that Mac Belo hauled down and converted for the marginal points.

The Blue Eagles scored more points inside the lane and from the perimeter. It was really the second chance points that did us in — from that game tying triple by Roger Pogoy and Belo’s putback. FEU scored 19 to our 13 in second chance points. 

And there’s the matter of the fouls called, 16-24 in FEU’s favor that saw them take 32 attempts from the free throw line to Ateneo’s mere 16.

That was the game in a nutshell and that is all you need to know.

During days, or more appropriately, losses like this, old hurts and wounds come to the surface and you wonder which loss was actually more painful. There is no difference. They all hurt. Everyone of them.

But the pain and the hurtful scenes are juxtaposed with brighter ones. 

There was Von Pessumal who stood on a chair, not quite Enrico Villanueva that glorious night of October 5, 2002 when we celebrated a championship against La Salle. He raised two hands in a sign of thanks to the blue and white gallery. Then he thrust forth his jersey with the “Ateneo” in front for all to see. Imagine that… the guy is probably hurting more because he lived it and he is out there saying thank you.

There was Ponso Gotladera who himself was in tears. The words I heard from several weeks ago still ring in my ear — he was glad to change zip codes for it is in Ateneo where he was given a chance and where he blossomed. When it was all but over, he made his way to the stands to hug his mom, Janet, who would skip work just to see her boy play. It was a bittersweet sight.

Gotladera wasn’t the only one who made his way to the stands. There was Kiefer Ravena who sought out his mom, Mozzy, who sat next to Janet Gotladera. Kiefer carried the team for so long, endured trying times, and painful ones as well. But he gave the school five championships — three in the Juniors Division and two in the seniors. He is one of those players who we will tell our next generation of kin, “You should have seen the Phenom play…"

There were FEU’s drummers who belted out “Go Ateneo” as a sign of respect to which the Ateneo drums replied in kind. When was the last time we had that kind of sportsmanship? That was Season 70 right in the middle of the Finals between La Salle and UE where La Salle’s Pep Squad played “Go Ateneo” when Chris Tiu was named to the Mythical Five that season. 

On my way home, with my mind still ablaze with so many thoughts. They jumped from one thought to another until it settled on something that Fr. Ben Nebres wrote in his foreword to my first Ateneo book, The 18th Banner: “These championships do not come easily or often to us at the Ateneo and we savor them all the more.”

And that is true. We all know we cannot win them all the time. That is why the championships are special.

It’s a painful loss. Who wasn’t crying at the end? Assistant coach Xavy Nunag buried his face in his hands. Hubert Cani who didn’t play at all was in tears. 

"It didn’t end the way I wanted it to end," said Bo Perasol after the match. “I would have been nice to have sent the series to a do-or-die match.”

Perasol paused for half a minute…. maybe he was fighting off the pain of the loss; maybe he was still surprised that it was all over. But he recovered as we always do, "But we did give them (FEU) One Big Fight,” he grinned.

And you know what? He is right. Bad calls, non-calls aside, we were in a position to win. As for that One Big Fight? That is all we ever ask.


Additional reading: The last interview of Bo Perasol as Ateneo head coach

Friday, November 20, 2015

UAAP Final Four Preview: UST vs NU

Redemption or Revenge
UST vs. NU
by rick olivares

The script is falling into place… but as to who rides into the sunset the hero is anyone’s guess.

The UST Growling Tigers have the opportunity to end nine years of futility and finally give its long suffering veterans a chance at cage glory. Their leader, Kevin Ferrer has been denied three times in the Finals — one as a senior in high school versus Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal and twice in the college finals against Ateneo and La Salle. Karim Abdul no longer as dominant as he was years ago but still plenty effective would like to go out with a bang as well. 

But the National University Bulldogs…. are in familiar territory as they win one elimination game after another and are in the unlikely position of going back into the Finals after looking dead in the water after its second round loss to Ateneo. 

Some Thomasians intimated that they wanted the Tigers to face NU more than Ateneo who matched up well against their team. They conveniently forget that it was the Bulldogs who dealt UST its first loss of Season 78, 55-54. The Tigers of course, got even in the second round with a 65-57 win.

Having said that, NU is the hottest team heading into the Final Four taking three straight over La Salle, UP, and FEU. The defending champions are in their territory. And they have the Tigers right where they want them.

During the Bulldogs’ fabled run in Season 77, they took down some tough nemesis and long-time tormentors along the way — Charles Mammie and the UE Red Warriors and the Ateneo Blue Eagles who they have been nipping at their claws for quite some time. 

Now… it’s UST and all the heartbreak they have inflicted on Ray Parks and company. Gelo Alolino and Kyle Neypes were around for some of those crushing losses in the semifinals of Seasons 75 and Season 76. It’s definitely time for payback…. if they can exact it. Furthermore, the one constant in those damning defeats was Kevin Ferrer shutting down and manhandling Parks.

UST averages 30.5 points in the first half and 29.0 in the second half against NU.
Nu averages 28 points per half.

This means that both teams even with the Bulldogs having two studs scoring in Alfred Aroga and Gelo Alolino, they can keep pace with UST’s Big Three. It is now up to the supporting casts to tilt the balance.

The margin for error is small. One big run at the end game like how UST took the second round match can swing the tide.

What does UST need to do to send NU packing?
They have to be concerned with the rebound battle. In both matches, NU outrebounded them and got more second chance points. When UST won their second match up, even if the Bulldogs still lost, they kept pace in terms of fast break points. You don’t want NU off to the races.

The Tigers like to play a man-zone that will shift to a 1-3-1 with Kevin Ferrer playing behind Abdul. That has allowed him to become a safety for his squad as well as a someone to clean up that glass. When Ferrer gets that ball, the do-it all swingman can also bring it down and set the play. 

Their Big Three of Kevin Ferrer, Ed Daquioag, and Karim Abdul need to score. Daquioag was stymied in the first round loss but in the second round encounter, all three got going offensively. But they will need Louie Vigil, Mario Bonleon, and Marvin Lee to do their part. That will allow their Big Three some rest and to conserve their fouls. It is hard to stop UST when they are getting major contributions from a lot of sources.

Especially Marvin Lee who will eventually inherit this team and become the King Tiger. Shades of Japs Cuan… a tough and gritty guard who can drive and kill you from the outside.

UST needs to attack NU’s interior. In both elims matches, UST took a lot of shots from the perimeter. Even in during their win, they were a poor 4/14 in layups against NU, that has is the league’s best defensive squad. If their outside artillery can’t find the mark, then they’ll be in lots of trouble against the Bulldogs whose guards all like to drive inside. 

In UST’s loss to NU, they shot better from three-point range than two-point range! In their win, they shot poorly once more. They need to get to the line and put NU into penalty and to hit some huge three-point bombs to get their gallery going.

While UST Coach Bong dela Cruz likes to talk defense, it has been their offense that has gotten them to where they are. So in this match up it will be the league’s second highest scoring team against the UAAP’s best defenders. Care to wager what wins championships?

What does NU need to do to send this to a do-or-die match?
Aside from playing defense, they need their Triple A Battery to get going — that’s Aroga, Alolino, and JJ Alejandro. NU has suffered from the lack of that third scorer. Last season, Alejandro came through late in the season. If he can reprise that then that puts NU in a huge position to advance and possibly win it all over again.

If they can prevent those booming and consecutive triples from energizing UST that would help. 

They will need Kyle Neypes to approximate Glenn Khobuntin. Neypes endured years of benching and poor play but became a part of the rotation last season and key one more so this year. It his scoring binges this second round that has allowed them to also stay in the hunt for a back-to-back title. They will need him.

Save for Alolino, NU’s backcourt has been largely ineffective. Rev Diputado and Alejandro need to get going. 

If Jonathan Tansingco and Jeff Javillionar can spell Aroga some quality minutes, NU will be in a position to forge a do-or-die game.

The game will come down to the team’s veteran leaders. Who can impose their will on this match and dictate plays. These are the games that make your reputations.

For UST it’s redemption after years of heartbreak. For NU, they’d love nothing more than to hand some payback and get another chance UAAP glory.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

UAAP Final Four Preview: FEU vs Ateneo

A glorious or tragic end to an era
FEU vs. Ateneo
by rick olivares

When second seed Far Eastern University and third seed Ateneo de Manila University clash on Saturday, it will be for the right to go to the Finals and close out a glorious chapter in its current team’s history.

FEU, the top scoring team this season with 74.7 points per game, is the prohibitive favorite to send Ateneo packing and to end the Blue Eages’ tenure of Bo Perasol, Kiefer Ravena, and Von Pessumal on a sour note. You can say that they wanted this match up simply because they have defeated Ateneo twice in the elimination round.

They want to win as well because this is the last hurrah for many of its veterans — Mike Tolomia, Mac Belo, Roger Pogoy, and Francis Tamsi. Russel Escoto go opt to leave as well but because he missed out a year he might come back. But that means he will be in his seventh year in college. Not sure if he will want that. Both Russel and Mike sat out their freshman years while serving a tour of duty on the RP Youth Team. They came back in time to join a FEU team that was destroyed in the Finals by Ateneo (Season 74). 

So Tolomia and company know all about heartache as they have fallen twice now in the finals (the other was to NU last season). It has been a 10-year title drought for FEU; the last was in 2005 when Arwind Santos, Mark Isip, and Denok Miranda led them to the UAAP’s basketball summit. 

For Ateneo that is in the middle of most statistical categories, now is the time to raise the level of their game. Furthermore, Ravena, Pessumal, and Gwyne Capacio are the last links to its recent championship glory. They would love nothing more than to crown their college careers with one last title. 

The last time Ateneo and FEU clashed in the Final Four was in Season 63 when the Blue Eagles had a twice-to-beat advantage over the Tamaraws (featuring Celino Cruz, Edwin Bacani, Leo Avenido, and Miko Roldan). The Blue Eagles defeated FEU twice in the elimination round and it looked like they would walk all over the Tams to enter the Finals in Joe Lipa’s second year at the helm.

But Andrew Cruz missed two free throws that would have given Ateneo a three-point lead with seconds left. What ensued was an improbable Miko Roldan jumper at the buzzer that crushed Atenean hearts everywhere for a 61-60 win. Then in Game Two, buoyed by the win, Cruz and Bacani combined for 39 points to crush Ateneo for the king-sized upset.

Can Ateneo return the favor or can FEU continue its mastery against its Katipunan-based foe?

For FEU to win they will need to do several things:
Own the boards. In their two elimination round victories, they won the battle of the rebounds.

They will need to move that ball around and get a lot of their players involved in the offense. In those two games, they had more assists than Ateneo and at least three players in double digits (their opening day win against the Blue Eagles saw four players score at least 10 points). In fact, their bench scores the most in the league with 37.4 points a match to Ateneo’s 29.7. 

They will need to shut down Von Pessumal. Twice now they kept him below 10 points. In the last outing, Roger Pogoy blocked Pessumal’s first two attempts and later rejected a third shot. That left Kiefer Ravena trying to win the game by his lonesome. Ravena did get some help from Adrian Wong but Ateneo needs more options. Sometimes, it is so obvious what they want to do and they waste so much time trying to get someone untracked (fighting through screens) that they take a lot of jumpers under duress. 

For Ateneo to win, they will need to do several things:
Stop taking freaking jumpers and attack that basket. If the others keep chucking up shots, they should just give the ball to Aaron Black who likes to drive to the hoop.

They will need Chib Ikeh to play solid basketball where he doesn’t fall for ball fakes and where he dunks the ball instead of throwing up soft shots.

They need to get some scoring inside not just from Ikeh but also from Ponso Gotladera, GBoy Babilonia, and Isaac Go.

If Arvin Tolentino can show up that would be huge.

And lastly, not collapse in the fourth period (in addition to playing defense not in stretches but for the entire game).

Prior to its loss to UE in the last game of the second round, Ateneo was on a roll while FEU was floundering taking losses to UST and NU and they flirted with disaster (whether it was done on purpose or not) with La Salle before they pulled off a win no thanks to the Green Archers’ inability to put the ball in the hoop).

Right now, FEU has the experience and the stats stacked in their favor. But that isn’t always the case in determining who moves on. The outcome will also depend on coaching and adjustments. And how many players show up for this big game.