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

Those Scalp-hunting Red Warriors

Those Scalp-hunting Red Warriors
by rick olivares

After the FEU-UE match in the first round where the Tamaraws ran up an 18-point lead before a searing Red Warriors rally fell short, Aldrech Ramos, JR Cawaling, and Ryan Garcia sat before the assembled media and showed off long scratch marks on either forearm. Evidence they said of the roughhousing tactics by UE as they literally clawed back into the game. Point guard Mark Barroca had telltale scratches too but had chosen to retreat to the locker room instead.

There was no love lost between the two schools that at one time traded UAAP basketball titles between themselves. FEU has won six in the last two decades and are in a three-way tie with UST and UE for the most league crowns with 19 apiece and the Tams have been installed as heavy favorites to take the tie-breaker.

Elmer Espiritu, UE’s forward-center with the maddest hops since Adamson’s Kenneth Duremdes was doing his own bit of skywalking along San Marcelino Avenue, said to his team before game time, “Kaya naman pala natin sila, eh, bakit pa tayo magpapatambak sa kanila?”

In their first round match-up, FEU center Reil Cervantes and UE’s Pari Llagas were both tossed from the match (albeit unfairly) for trading sweet nothings to one another. It merited a one-game suspension that told heavily on UE’s next assignment that was league-leading Ateneo. As in their earlier game with FEU, they went down 18 points to the Blue Eagles before their rally ran out of time.

“I believe in my team,” said UE Coach Lawrence Tiongson without batting an eyelash. “We will play whoever. If we make the Final Four we will just have to beat whoever twice.”

But first they had a score to settle with the Tamaraws.

From the opening tip, UE took it straight at the heart of FEU’s defense. Rudy Lingganay and Paul Zamar drove inside. Llagas posted up. And Espiritu when he wasn’t hanging in the stratosphere waiting for gravity to do its job on his man, was knocking down nasty fadeaway jumpers and skying for death-defying slams. If that wasn’t enough for FEU, there was still the matter of Paul Lee.

Lee is perhaps the top-two guard in the league now. Having bulked up and raised the level of his game, He is no longer prone to silly errors or having the ball pilfered from his hands.

At the end of the first round, he was second in the Red Warriors squad in scoring with 13.1 (behind Llagas’ 14.9) and 5.4 assists. With UE’s bigs doing heavy damage inside, Lee was lurking in the perimeter and knocking down treys. His alley-oop to Espiritu for a slam had the Araneta Coliseum rocking.

In the second half, Espiritu picked up a loose ball and flushed it down once more but not before slapping his palm on the fiberglass window.

The Tamaraws were flustered and unable to mount a serious attack. They came close in the final minutes as they strung up eight straight points, but UE not only held on, they attacked once more and got a few stops highlighted by bigtime rejections by Espiritu on Paul Sanga and McJan Vinluan.

UE had their revenge; a 87-72 win to grab solo third at 6-4 while FEU fell to 8-2. It was a bigger upset than their opening day whipping of De La Salle. They shot a blistering 60% in the first half, a percentage that leveled off at 54% by game’s end. It typified their determination to take charge of their destiny and not let anyone’s else’s standings get in the way. “We have a mission,” added Tiongson. “We want to show everyone we belong and that we’re ready to compete for the title. Take it how you want it – a warning or a challenge.”

After the game, Llagas and Espiritu couldn’t wait to get back to the dugout for their celebration. The win pumped life into their Final Four aspirations of which five teams are disputing the last two seats to the play-offs' bus. When asked why the rush, Espiritu, smiled and said, “Gutom na kami. Kainan na.”

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