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 24, 2009

Ateneo Blue Eagles Game 10 Long Shot

Long Shot
Ateneo 80 vs. UST 70
words by rick pic by raddy game by kirk

Kramer vs. Kramer
The Thomasians have a term for it… “Na-Kramer” in reference to Doug Kramer’s game winning lay-up in Game 1 of the UAAP Finals of Season 69. The phrase entered school lore when Kirk Long, then a rookie, hit a fade away jump shot over Jervy Cruz to give Ateneo a 72-71 victory in the Blue Eagles’ 10th match of Season 70.

That was pretty much Long’s best game as he stayed mostly invisible the following year as his shooting touch and confidence evaporated. And with that went his starting slot that was given to Ryan Buenafe. Team followers wondered what the problem could be since Long generally did well during practice. Had they asked the youngster out of Faith Academy in Antipolo, he would have begged them for an answer as well.

After one victory en route to the Blue Eagles’ Season 71 title, the Long family had dinner at the nearby Taco Bell in Gateway Mall. Kirk seemed forlorn and had a hard time digesting the food in front of him. He didn’t play well and was benched in the second half. His father, Jeff, sat beside him with a look of concern on his brow but he patiently waited for his son to open up. “I don’t know, dad,” finally spoke the son in soft and hushed tones as the rest of the family and their friends turned away. “I don’t feel confident when I’m out there.”

The two exchanged words for a few more minutes before the father put his hand on his son’s shoulder and offered words of encouragement, “Don’t give up, son. Keep working hard. Your time will come.”

Forth and Long
With Ateneo on top 71-66, the Tigers forced a near turnover and the Blue Eagles had to inbound the ball from close to center court. There were six seconds left on the shot clock when Jai Reyes inbounded the ball to Long who wheeled around dribbled once and launched a trey from more than 30 feet out and over the outstretched arms of Tiger guard Jeric Fortuna.

It was all net.

Long raised his two arms in an upright form, the sign for “touchdown” in American football. He had hit his eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth points of the match for a 74-66 Ateneo lead with 56.3 ticks left. The eight-point advantage was Ateneo’s largest of the match and in a closely fought match it was a precious lead. Especially against the highest scoring team in the league.

He would add one more free throw for his game and career high 21 points where he hit 5 of 6 treys and shot 2-2 from the field. He made 2 of 4 free throws while adding 5 boards, 4 assists, and 1 steal in a most excellent 31 minutes of action.

And in the face of the incredible shooting display by Dylan Ababou, Khasim Mirza, and Allein Maliksi, he kept the Blue Eagles in the game.

Ateneo’s game plan was simple – pound it inside once more. The Tigers though long and athletic lack size to defend the interior; a glaring deficiency that saw them give up an average of 36.3 points that is third worst behind NU and surprisingly, UE.

It seemed like a good idea except that UST refused to cooperate as they double-teamed Rabeh Al-Hussaini and contested everyone’s shot. And for the second time this year, UST’s under-sized forward-center Melo Afuang got the goat of Al-Hussaini by baiting him to commit his second foul that sent him to the bench. He would miss the entire second quarter and large tracts of the third.

Incredibly, the Blue Eagles shot 51.9% but were down 39-36 at the half. They had battled UST to a draw on the boards 21 each but the Tigers led because they corralled 4 more offensive rebounds and forced Ateneo into 6 more turnovers.

The first five
In the two teams first meeting, it took the second unit to get the Blue Eagle juggernaut going. But the Tigers prepared well for Ateneo’s bench mob this time around as they disrupted Buenafe’s dribble when he ducked inside, they put a taller man on Emman Monfort who would not score a point this day, and they outscored their counterparts 21-17.

But the starters stood toe-to-toe in an incandescent third quarter where Jai Reyes hit two triples, Nonoy Baclao scored inside twice, and Eric Salamat added a free throw.

And there was Long who also rifled in a pair of trifectas with one that tied the match at 58-all before Mirza scooted in for a fastbreak lay-up to give UST the lead at the end of the third.

By the time Al-Hussaini was reinserted at the start of the fourth, they finally got to execute their game plan. He scored inside on Chris Camus to finally wrest the lead for good at 63-62 and added seven more.

Then Long’s three-ball put the fight out of the Tigers and helped give Ateneo its sixth consecutive victory over their España rivals to barge into the Final Four. And for the second consecutive match, the starters played huge as four of them pumped in double figures.

The Three-Year Itch
Long had played well this year, his third year in the league, while reinventing himself as a defensive specialist and occasionally adding a basket or two. He cut down on his turnovers and had become a valuable part of the rotation. His confidence grew with every outing and inside the media room, a gleeful Norman Black teased him, “You’re first time in here?”

“Yeah…” beamed the American looking somewhat sheepish with all the cameras, tape recorders, and microphones thrust in his face.

“Well, I’ve been waiting for this for the last three years. I hope to see you here many more times.” challenged Black.

Then Long, fielded the first of many questions that post-game, “I’m from Antipolo City and my family moved here in 1991. I studied at Faith Academy and am just happy to be able to help my team…”

Outside the dugout in an ambush interview with UST Coach Pido Jarencio about Long’s game, he seemed puzzled about the Kramer reference. “Ang alam ko ay pinatay kami ni Long. Yung long shot niyang tres.”

Ateneo 80Long 21, Al-Hussaini 14, Salva 11, Reyes 11, Baclao 10, Salamat 7, Austria 5, Golla 1, Tiongson 0, Monfort 0, De Chavez 0, Chua 0, Buenafe 0

UST 70Ababou 19, Mirza 18, Malikisi 11, Camus 8, Teng 4, Aytona 3, Afuang 3, Fortuna 2, Bautista 2, Ungria 0, Green 0

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