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 30, 2007

Clear and Present Danger - UAAP Game 6 Ateneo 64 vs FEU 77

Clear and Present Danger - UAAP Game 6 Ateneo 64 vs FEU 77
Round One UAAP Season 70
by Rick Olivares

July 29, 2007

Araneta Coliseum

Quezon City

We should petition the UAAP Board that after we play La Salle, our next game be a week after. After all, there’s a precedent.

After beating the Green Archers in a highly emotional Final Four series in 2003, the Blue Eagles suffered a serious meltdown against the FEU Tamaraws in the Championship Series. “Naubos” was the best way to describe Ateneo’s collapse that year.

Four years later history poked us in the eye to remind us of our folly --- La Salle is not the UAAP. Every team this Season 70 -- even the University of the Philippines and Adamson despite their being winless – will give us all we can handle. The Far Eastern University Tamaraws may not have name stars but what they have is a championship pedigree.

Opposite directions
Coming into this game, both teams were a man down. Ateneo was without its rookie forward Bacon Austria who is out for 4-6 weeks with a knee injury while FEU was minus JR Gerilla who was thrown off the team for disciplinary reasons.

Ateneo was still hung-over from that rousing victory over their archrival while FEU, although coming off a win versus hapless Adamson, was trying to break its annoying habit of alternating between a win and a loss.

In the game against DLSU, the Blues and Whites were all business-like from the round robin all the way to the final buzzer. Against its Morayta rival… as they jogged out onto the Araneta Coliseum floor, they were joking, laughing, and incredibly loose.

We were ripe for the picking.

FEU is two years removed from their last superstar player in Arwind Santos. But the incredible thing about this team is how they continue to roll out a factory line of long-limbed athletic players with a penchant for ripping the cords of the net.

Despite a 6-0 lead (courtesy of some great plays by Ford Arao) to start the game, Ateneo’s offense seemed out of sorts. Unfocused and sloppy come to mind. After FEU guard Mark Barroca picked up his second foul, instead of collapsing, Tamaraws coach Glenn Capacio sent in the much taller Marlon Adolfo and Paul Sanga whose size and ability to double team and recover wreaked serious havoc on the Blue Eagles’ offense.

What was ironic about this is that we handled the press of UE and DLSU pretty well, but against FEU, it seemed as if it was a new defensive wrinkle that was thrown at us.

The Long-awaited hero
The Long family has made the Philippines their home for 16 years now and Jeff Long was extremely happy that his son, Kirk, chose to stay rather than go back to the United States for college.

“I’m glad that he stayed,” said Mr. Long, who works with orphanages and street children, sat courtside with his brother and cheered the team on. “It’s only been a few months but it’s a great experience. Kirk’s with a fantastic school, has a great coach, and is part of an exciting and very good team.”

“You’ve only seen glimpses of Kirk’s game. Wait ‘til he gets going.”

Making his second straight start, the frosh out of Faith Academy in Antipolo, Rizal, played another 27 quality minutes while chipping in 10 points and a team high 5 assists.

A lethargic first half and a frightening propensity to lapse into a series of turnovers prevented the Blue Eagles from finding any rhythm. As a result, the team was down 39-27 at the half. But the Ateneo crowd sprang to life at the start of the third quarter to provide the beat as Long and Chris Tiu rode the show of support to bring the Blue Eagles back into the game.

The American has showed a knack for finding the creases in the Tamaraws nearly airtight defense for an and-one, a twisting lay-up and some nifty dimes to the Ateneo bigs. "I really want to help the team win," said Long after the game. "I'd rather we pick up the W."

The tale of the tape
Skipper Tiu on the other hand rebounded from a poor 25% shooting from the field in the first half for a four-point play and three other huge treys during Ateneo’s rally after the resumption of hostilities.

With the turnovers piling up and an inability to convert from close range, the closest the Blue Eagles would get was five points down at 46-51 after Arao (7 points and 3 rebounds in 18 minutes) split his freebies.

The clear and present danger to Ateneo’s title aspirations lies in its ability to rule the boards and to limit its turnovers. We won the rebounding battle 43-31 but we finished with a season worst 23 errors that FEU exploited for 30 huge and painful points. The Blue Eagles have averaged 18.8 TO’s per outing and for this match, they nearly reached their quota after only 20 minutes of action with a crippling 12 that led to the early deficit.

The start of the fourth quarter saw the boys of the green and gold hike their lead to double digits once more as they survived one last barrage from Long, Tiu (18 points and 5 caroms), and Eric Salamat (9 points and 2 boards).

Jai Reyes who stood so marvelously tall against the big men of La Salle found his guns silent and shooting way off against the Tamaraws. After his final trey attempt misfired – the summary of an atrocious game by Ateneo, FEU’s Capacio was visibly elated, “Pwede namin gamitin ito na pang build ng confidence. Siguro lang nahuli namin ang Ateneo na masama yung araw.”

“Aaahhh, nakakainis,” mumbled Blue Eagle forward Jobe Nkemakolam as a glum and disappointed Ateneo team quickly made its way to the dugout. “Bawi tayo next game.”

“Naubos yung intensity sa La Salle,” agreed one table official after the game. But that’s not the only bit of history repeating itself.

If you were paying close attention, FEU did exactly what UST did in last year’s Finals… and that was to torch us from the outside. Even their bigs got into the act.

And look who’s on deck. It’s the Growling Tigers.

It might be nothing but coincidence, but when FEU last beat us in 2003, they had an Ateneo connection. Forget Anton Montinola’s blue blood for a moment and consider RJ Rizada’s roots in the southern Ateneo schools.

And this year, it’s a bit of an unusual source. First of all there’s rookie point guard Jens Knuttel who also went to a Jesuit school before transferring to FEU-FERN. He also played in the last Ateneo Basketball League (ABL). And if you went to the Ateneo De Manila in the 1980’s to the mid-90’s you probably might have known the security guard who was assigned to the campus’ Gate 3. Guard Bong Adolfo had an amiable smile and a ready helping hand for students. And yes, Tamaraws forward Marlon is his son.

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