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, August 13, 2007

Crimson Tide - UAAP Game 8 Ateneo 68 vs UE 73

Crimson Tide - UAAP Game 8 Ateneo 68 vs UE 73
Round Two UAAP Season 70
by Rick Olivares

August 12, 2007
Araneta Coliseum

This is what that loss does to us. We look deep into ourselves for answers.

The huge win against La Salle seems an awfully long time ago. The early promise of a 4-1 record has dissipated. Three straight losses have put a damper on the good vibes. And the season at a crossroads.

We went into our second round match against unbeaten UE with a feeling that we were going to be the first team to blemish their slate. After all, we were the only team to put the fear of God into them during the first round and lost by a whisker. This was the win that was going to right the ship.

Instead, we went home shuffling our feet, shaking our heads and nodding to one another; the pained look on our faces was all you needed to know about that gnawing in our guts. The two losses no matter how close they were have given UE the psychological advantage. They can close out games leaving us to wonder if we’ll ever stop shooting ourselves in the foot.

It has been said that playing for the Blue Eagles is a labor of love. Well, rooting for the Blue Eagles is an exercise in pain and suffering. UE has been title-less since 1985. Maybe they know our pain. The losing years of the 90’s have allowed schools like UST, FEU, and Letran to overhaul our cherished record of having the second-most most number of basketball crowns (the Red Warriors used to have the most).

You can’t say it’s just a game. These games, whether rightly or wrongly, partly define us, make our day, or even determine if we’ll be sociable after the match or not. Even they way we give back to the team is dependent on a winning program. There may no longer be moral victories but we can console ourselves that we don’t win at all costs.

Lest you think that we’re in the middle of a eulogy here, it’s not. We have six more games to go. At an even 4-4, we have six more games to play. If possible, we must win every game. Another loss complicates things. Going through the gauntlet of hungry and talented teams is no easy feat. But then again, things have never been easy for us.

At the end of the first round, the Blue Eagles were sixth in scoring at 72.1 points per game, but on the flipside, we gave back 71.4 points to our opponents.

We were second in rebounding with 49.6, third in assists with 15.1, seventh in steals with only 3.3, and fourth in blocked shots with 3.3.

And that’s not even the worst. We committed the most number of turnovers per game with 18.7, were dead last in fastbreak points with 8 per outing, and were last in converting foes’ garbage into gold with 9 a match.

With regards to free throws, we were third best. Unfortunately, that’s a misnomer for we tend to miss the crucial ones.

Case in point, with time down to 5:20 in the fourth quarter and UE up 67-63, Jai Reyes whipped a no-look pass to Ken Barracoso who was alone underneath the basket. Barracoso was fouled but missed two free throws.

With 4:33 left, UE was in penalty, Eric Salamat, who presided over the second quarter charge that boosted us to a 38-35 halftime lead, split his freebies to trim the lead down to 67-64. If the three free throws were made then it would have been a tied ball game.

After Red Warrior Mark Borboran hit a bank shot to re-up UE’s lead to 69-64, Ford Arao on the other end, fished for Hans Thiele’s fourth foul off an and-one. Making it 69-66. Arao promptly missed the free throw. Incredibly, we hauled down three straight offensive boards after that but failed to convert.

Given additional breathing room, UE point guard Marcy Arellano hit a difficult shot to give his team a 71-66 lead. After a couple of misses, Chris Tiu, who struggled with his shot once more, made two of three free throws to move slightly closer at 71-68. But UE persevered under pressure and rookie Paul Lee completed two more gift shots to ice the game for its final score of 73-68.

For the most part, Ateneo has owned the second and third quarters. But that’s no consolation. The games after all are won in the fourth quarter.

“We’re on a mission,” said UE Coach Dindo Pumaren before the game. “May mga nagsasabi na hindi convincing yung panalo namin sa Ateneo nung first round. So we’re looking at this a validation for our record and march to the Final Four.”

If you’re looking for answers as to why we’ve not been winning, we’ve gone through part of the numbers. But that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. In all four of our losses (even in the one-point victory against NU that could have also gone their way), the one missing factor has been Jai Reyes. Who would have thought that the under-sized guard would be vital to the team’s fortunes?

In the team’s wins, he had 11 against Adamson, 9 against UP, and 18 against DLSU.

In the four losses, he finished with 6 versus UE, 5 against FEU, 6 to UST, and 5 in the return bout against the Warriors.

In the close win against NU, Reyes finished with 5.

The junior guard not only quarterbacks, but his shooting can be lethal. When he’s on fire, he opens up the lane for his teardrops and drop passes. He was 1-for-8 from LaLa Land and 1-for-3 from two-point range. And he didn’t even have any free throw attempts.

The tide has clearly turned. The promise of a good season (and many smiling and happy dinners afterwards) has become deadly serious. We’re in a dogfight. With UE at 8-0, UST, DLSU and FEU tied at 5-3, we’re at fifth place 4-4 and shade ahead of NU which has the same slate. Adamson is at seventh place with a 1-7 record while UP brings up the rear with a shockingly poor 0-8 slate. Leaving out UE that makes five teams fighting for three slots. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

This is what a loss does to us. We look deep into ourselves for answers. In spite of this, the last time we looked, there’s still that One Big Fight for a Final Four berth.

Animo Ateneo!

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