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, March 31, 2011

National U-23 tournament kicks off to great fanfare

This appears in the April 1, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.

National U-23 tournament kicks off to great fanfare
by jae bolando, mia domingo, brosi gonzales and rick olivares

LOS BANOS -- The University of the Philippines Los Baños played host to the North, Central and South Luzon leg of the very first staging of the PFF Suzuki U-23 National Cup last Wednesday, March 30, 2011. Promising football players in this tournament will likely be tapped to join the Philippine contingent to the 2011 SEA Games in Palembang, Indonesia this November. 

The football tournament of the SEA Games remains the most prestigious one in the region although the biennial Suzuki Cup has begun to give the former a run for its money in terms of prestige and popularity.

The Philippine Men’s National Football Team, fresh from their successful run in the qualifying stage of the AFC Challenge Cup in Myanmar, joined the parade around the UPLB campus that preceded the opening ceremony on board their personalized Azkals bus. The nationals, who were without Neil Etheridge, Jason Sabio, Aly Borromeo, Anton del Rosario, and brothers James and Phil Younghusband, were led by new recruit, Fil-Spaniard Angel Aldeguer Guirado, who scored two of the three goals against Bangladesh last week.

The kickoff to the first Under-23 national tournament in years was graced by PFF President Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, Suzuki Philippines President Satoshi Uchida, national team head coach Michael Weiss, and national team manager Dan Palami. Weiss, who aside from coaching the senior national squad will also be minding the U-23 team to the SEA Games.

In the lone game of the day, Laguna FA defeated Baguio-Benguet FA 4-2. Laguna striker Kevin de Castro scored a hat trick with midfielder Jim Flores adding to the host town’s final tally. For the visiting team, Alvin Aoas scored a brace.

Said winning coach Aquilino Pastoral III of his team’s satisfying start, “Karamihan ng players ko naglalaro sa Manila, yung advantage ng team namin ay yung experience na nakukuha nila sa Manila ay nadadala nila dito sa Laguna.”

In the press conference after the kickoff, PFF President Nonong Araneta said that this is the first time that Suzuki is sponsoring an event like this. The Japanese automotive company wanted to show its support for football with the recent surge of the beautiful game’s popularity following the Azkals’ stirring 2010 Suzuki Cup run.

Araneta also mentioned that only three provinces are not represented in competition. “We have a wide participation from the football associations. So, all in all, we have 30 teams competing in this maiden voyage of the Under-23,” said the president who once also donned the national colors during his playing days.

Azkals Team Manager Dan Palami added, "One problem of the team that we want to address is that, the locals are being overshadowed by the foreigners. The lack of available talents enabled us to stage a competition like this and fortunately, Suzuki stepped in to give their all out support. We encourage not just those under-23 years old to join but even the young ones who are interested with the sport can start early in order to develop their craft."

Palami cited caution in the formation of the national team, "It's a long and complicated process but I am optimistic that we'll be able to find valuable Under-23 talents in this competition to represent us in the Southeast Asian Games this November. Actually, my policy as team manager is that, if there's not much difference from the foreign-trained Filipinos and the locals, I'd rather choose and develop the local talents."

Said Weiss of the tournament, “We’re always looking for quality players who are physically strong, who have a good technique, who have a good sense to play football anyone who can prove their selves have a chance to tryout. I’m not sure, I don’t know about the level of game that they have here, my coaching staff are looking for possible talents and we will have try outs on May and then we will see if they can play or not.”

Suzuki Philippines President Satoshi Uchida, himself a huge football fan who was impressed with the Philippines’ run in the last Suzuki Cup said, "This is a good start for the partnership of Suzuki and the PFF. We are hoping this will grow and based on the reaction of the crowd today and with the turnout of the kickoff, the people are really enthusiastic about the sport. I think we can look forward to a yearly PFF U-23. And just to add, we are avid supporters of football. We hope to continue and to be supportive of the PFF's plans for the development of football in the country. 

“Actually, the plan of the Federation is to stage an Under-23 competition every other year because we are just following the calendar for the SEA Games,” clarified Araneta. “Next year, we'll be having an Under-21 competition. And also, just to give you an idea, the last Suzuki Cup [last year] was the most successful [tournament] in the whole of Asia, even better than the Asian Cup."

As the North, Central and South Luzon kicked off their leg today, games were simultaneously played at Naga City-Camarines Sur for the Southeast Luzon Leg. Both Luzon legs will run from March 30-April 3 2011. The North Mindanao leg, which is hosted by the Cagayan De Oro-Misamis Oriental Football Association, kicked off their leg yesterday, which will last until April 2, 2011, Saturday. The West Mindanao leg, where it was hosted by the Football Association of Misamis Occidental-Ozamiz kicked off last March 25 until last Sunday, March 27. Zamboanga Del Norte-Dipolog topped the West MIndanao cluster, thus they advance to the next stage. 

Azkals draw the Brave Reds in June World Cup Qualifiers

This appears in the Friday, April 1, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.

Azkals draw the Brave Reds in June World Cup Qualifiers
by mia domingo and rick olivares

LOS BANOS, LAGUNA -- A few minutes after the press conference for the PFF Suzuki Under-23 National Cup, Philippine Football Federation President Mariano V. Araneta, National Team Manager Dan Palami, and National team Head Coach Hans Michael Weiss gathered alongside members of the media to follow the drawing of lots that appeared in the Asian Football Confederation website ( for the first round of the World Cup Qualifiers this June.

When the name of the Philippines was matched against Sri Lanka, Palami exulted with an emphatic, "Yeah!" The match up is seen by PFF officials as a favorable draw that could help see the Philippines advance farther that it has in World Cup qualifying history.

The Philippines, currently ranked #151 in the world by FIFA will be playing Sri Lanka, ranked at #173 in a home and away two-part match this coming June 29 and July 3. “The Brave Reds,’ as the Sri Lankan men’s national football team is known by, will host the Azkals on June 29 at the Sugathadasa Stadium. The PFF has yet to decide where the country’s home match will be played in Panaad Stadium in Bacolod or at the newly refurbished Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

Coach Weiss, who earlier said that they don't want to speculate yet on who they will go up against in the World Cup Qualifiers said, "I could personally get tapes of Sri Lanka games but we can also send someone from the PFF to do that. It has to be done. In terms of preparations, hopefully, we can have a physically strong team equipped with the right techniques that we could apply when playing. We want to make accurate preparations in order for us to have a bigger chance of advancing. And with the players coming in, we have to keep them all together now for us to have a fair chance. 

He added, "14 years ago, I saw Japan being in almost the same situation where the Azkals are in right now. But, look at them now, look at where they are right now. They are one of the strongest teams in Asia. With our team, I am very proud and I can see the efforts from them to rise."

The strengthening of the team is a high priority as Palami and Weiss plan to go to Germany to scout for more players with Filipino lineage who want to play for the national team. More tryouts are also scheduled in the Europe and the United States.

Said Palami of the Sri Lanka matchup, "Even if we're meeting Sri Lanka we still can't be complacent. We'll have to prepare for each match as if it's our last; as if our backs are behind the wall. I have faith that the Azkals will shine more and I have full confidence with our coach. Hopefully, we get to the third round. That will be a bigger achievement. We'll take it one step at a time. I am quite confident that we'll have a fair chance with other teams especially those teams more than 50 places ahead of us in the rankings. 

Palami was pertaining to Kuwait which is already seeded for the second round of the World Cup Qualifiers.

Although the Azkals are on a one-month break from national team duty, many still will be seeing action in the ongoing United Football League tournament. “Malaking bagay rin na may pahinga kami,” said Azkals midfielder Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong. “Bawi kami sa mga ibang responsibilities at may team mag-heal yung ibang injuries.”

The Azkals resume practice for the World Cup Qualifiers this coming May.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday thoughts in Singapore

Wednesday thoughts in Singapore

Do you have a problem getting you kids to eat vegetables?

I used to. Not anymore though.

There is probably no greater thrill than being with your son, traveling, experiencing new things, and seeing him enjoy things that also stir your soul.

My youngest son takes after me. He eschews the expensive for the simple, cheap, and ordinary. Like me, we can be done shopping in seven minutes or less. Our shopping esthetics is ridiculously easy to appease. In the vernacular, we are the tiangge habitués.

Oh, the vegetables. When I started taking my kids with me on my trips, I began to open them up to new types of food. They were notoriously boors when it comes to food. On Sundays or on occasions, I’d ask what they’d prefer to eat. They use to enthuse the usual fast food crap that I’d roll my eyes to.

Traveling. As cheap as fastfood is, no one did we go all the way to a foreign land to eat that same old. So I started them out with Mexican before moving on to Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian. And the floodgates to adventures in new cuisine began. And so did the vegetables. I have no idea if your kid eats cucumbers and other veggies but my youngest son did when he began trying out Vietnamese food. Imagine my kid asking me what kind of vegetable that was and liking it!

Flushed with success, I used my approach to eating vegetables in my getting my kids to read. I have no idea what it is with today’s kids who don’t pick up the newspaper or paperback. They don’t go to the library to research as they rely on wikipedia. For news they go online and the mention of books means Kindle and the sort.

I was disappointed at first that they had no love for comic books or even reading. I tried to force them to no avail. Then one day, they began to pick up some books. Nowadays, no trip abroad is not complete if we don’t pass by Kinokuniya or Borders. They pick up not just graphic novels but even books. My eldest even read his first sports book ever which was John Feinstein’s The Punch.

Speaking of sports, over a mixed lunch of Chinese and Indian food (with veggies) the other day, we talked about those new adidas kicks. How the Ibrahimovic AC Milan jersey at 313 Somerset looked real nice (except that it fetched for a little over US $100). How it was a blast looking at those UFC DVDs. And how Liam Gallagher’s new outfit (the renamed Oasis) Beady Eye had a not so bad debut with Different Gear, Still Speeding. But he prefers heavier stuff. When I say heavy I do mean heavy.

The other night, in this most cosmopolitan city of Singapore (that my son adores), we were watching on the internet a match thousands of miles away. Over in Brazil to be exact. We watched as Santos FC goalkeeper Rogerio took a free kick that veered away from the Corinthians wall before wickedly curving in to go past keeper Julio Cesar. It was an incredible goal. One keeper beating another. Perhaps more importantly it was Rogerio’s 100th net bender.

Woe to our dismay that Rogerio was shown the yellow card because FIFA dictates that taking off one’s jersey is a cautionable offense. What crap!

We hollered and protested to no avail.

My kid and I root for many similar teams. Although he likes Arsenal first, he also digs Liverpool. And of course, there’s the Ateneo Blue Eagles that our entire family roots for. But we watch just about every club out there save for those two teams from Manchester.

Even as he plays his hand held videos games, once he hears the sound of a match going on (such as last night while watching a DVD of highlights of a previous Liverpool season), his attention is now divided.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

adidas Star Wars Originals @ 313 Somerset

Check out these kicks from adidas featuring Star Wars characters. This pair of kicks -- called the "Skyline mid Coruscant" -- has Darth Vader on the heel of the shoe (high top) and is made of high grade leather with suede lining. The pair of shoes retails for around SD $230. They've got these cool Stormtrooper designs as well as Han Solo and C3PO. The latter designs are in low cut form and of course are slightly cheaper. You can find this at 313 Somerset in Orchard Road.

Believe it or not, I actually sided with the Galactic Empire. Seriously! They had the cool characters and ever cooler weapons. And the Stormtrooper? Classic. I already have the Superstar low cut of the Stormtrooper that I got when it first came out, but the new designs are just cool. Who would have thought that the Stormtrooper would be a pop icon! Haha.

Han Solo frozen in carbonite! Preserved in the tongue of this Superstar model.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ateneo Football League announcement

We will hold a general assembly for the team captains of the first season of the Ateneo Football League this coming Saturday April 2, 2011 at the Aikido area (2nd Level near University Athletics Office) of the Blue Eagle Gym from 10am-11am. We will discuss the league, the rules, and the schedule. We are also pleased to announce that we have 31 teams participating in the first ever AFL tournament. Will post more info here in Bleachers' Brew as well as on our Facebook page. Thanks and OBF!

Smart Gilas pulls out another rabbit vs Powerade

Pulling out another rabbit
Smart Gilas 98 vs. Powerade 97
by rick olivares

March 27, 2011
Araneta Coliseum
Rajko Toroman watched how the Alaska Aces came back to pip Meralco in overtime sans their American reinforcement. He also heard the death knell sentences how the national team was done without his own import who previously hurt his ankle in their losing effort against B-Meg Derby Ace. “Critics say that we only win because of Marcus Douthit,” said a miffed Toroman. “If the team was prepared to play without Marcus against B-Meg then there was a chance we could have won. And we nearly did. The game against Powerade was a chance to show what we can do.”

Only his team shot a miserable 31% in the first quarter while Powerade was phenomenal on their end as they pumped in 34 points on 54% shooting. After JR Quiñahan hit a jumper over Japeth Aguilar early in the second quarter, Smart Gilas stared at a huge 21-point deficit. Yet somehow Toroman knew his team wasn’t done.

In the two and a half years the nationals have been together, they had cut their eyeteeth in staging one mother of a comeback after another and they had done some against some of the top teams in all of Asia sans their American players. “What’s one more?” chuckled forward Marcio Lassiter who seemed more worried about how cumbersome his facemask was than Powerade. “I’m sure we have more rabbits in our hat.”

But the big adjustment came at the half after Gilas whittled the lead down to 55-42. The Tigers had earlier thrown a box and one on the Nationals who without a dominant post player had to rely on their outside marksmen for the rally. If the Nationals could shift the game to another gear then it would be more to their liking. They shored up their man-zone to prevent lane incursions with one noticeable wrinkle – Aguilar was to guard David.

As play resumed, Aguilar fielded a pass by Casio as he slid in for a layup. With the Tigers guarding against another incursion, Lassiter spot up for a trey. Then Casio hit one of his own from the top of the arc.

Just like that, Gilas was back in the game 55-50. The Tigers on the other hand, predictably went to Gary David. But the league’s leading scorer for the past two conferences had his shot blocked by Aguilar as Gilas literally enforced a no-fly zone in Powerade’s side of the court. Aguilar and Al Ramos combined for five blocked shots and Gilas was off and running.

The comeback was complete when Mark Barroca scored his only four points of the match while Chris Lutz added five points to give Gilas a 76-71 lead. They had outscored Powerade 34-16 in a scorching third quarter.

After two more Lutz free throws, Gilas had its biggest lead at 80-73.

But here’s where the game entered the stuff of legend. The Tigers battled back behind David and American import Martin Zeno who topscored for his team with 28 points. The two restored the lead to Powerade 88-84. After Aguilar blew a dunk that Francis Allera parlayed into a bucket following a drop pass by Zeno, Gilas was suddenly back on their heels 91-86.

That’s when Lassiter decided to make things happen.

“I never seemed to have a good shooting game this tournament,” said the former Cal State Fullerton Titan. “But that’s not going to stop me from shooting. I just had to make sure to follow through better.”

Lassiter stroked one from the left side to make it 89-91 with 3:15 left in the game. On the Tigers’ inbound, he harassed Zeno and stole the ball for a layup to incredibly tie the match.

Powerade’s veteran center Dennis Espino used his sleight of hand to score a bucket but Ramos returned the favor on the other end for the game’s fourth and final deadlock at 93-all.

David hit a jumper and after a missed Gilas offensive, Tiu who got hurt on a hard pick by Espino rifled in a trey of his own from the left side of the arc. Zeno scored on a drive but couldn’t keep his bonus free throw down.

Gilas sued for time and one last play. Casio who had torched Powerade thus far on 9-14 shooting for 27 points, was immediately double-teamed by the Tigers. On the reset following a Zeno foul, Casio got the ball. With Mark Macapagal and Espino once more rushing out to force him to give up the ball, the wily guard split the double team right in the middle and drove hard. With former college nemesis Francis Allera in his path, the Gilas guard scooped a layup over several outstretched hands to settle into the net.

After Powerade missed two chances to win the game at the buzzer (including a heartbreaking off-balanced heave by Allera), Aguilar bounced the ball hard on the floor as Gilas celebrated in the middle of the court.

“Even when we were down by 20 points, we knew we could come back,” said Casio later in the dugout. “We’ve done this so many times that it gives us the confidence to comeback.”

Another rabbit? Lassiter, the last player to leave the Gilas dugout, just smiled.

Smart Gilas 98Casio 29, Lassiter 20, Lutz 11, Aguilar 10, Tiu 7, Ramos 7, Baracael 5, Slaughter 4, Barroca 4, Ballesteros 0

Powerade 97Zeno 28, David 23, Espino 10, Lanete 9, Quiñahan 8, Macapagal 5, Allera 4, Antonio 4, Reyes 3, Cruz 3, Anthony 0

After Smart Gilas' loss to B-Meg, the disappointment was palpable among the players and team management. Rajko Toroman admitted to some mistakes on his part of the game. But he made known to his players that the goal wasn't to win the Commissioner's Cup but to toughen up for the coming FIBA Asia Champions Challenge Cup (this May 28-June 5 in Manila) and for the FIBA Asia this September 15-25 in Wuhan, China. 

Marcus Douthit should play in Gilas' next match this coming Wednesday vs Ginebra San Miguel. Darn will miss that.

Will Gilas be reinforced by PBA players? Yes, they will. But the number is not final. The plan is to request for their addition immediately after this conference in done.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Adidas: Declare your passion

Katy Perry? Okay, she might be hot but how does she fit in this? 

"All is in" is the latest TVC for adidas by Montreal, Canada-based ad agency Sid Lee. Yup. Now the sports brand has a new agency and I think it's pretty ballsy move. I think they previously did the adidas Originals Star Wars TV coms. The director is Romain Gervas, a French director who is known for trying to infuse grittiness in his work. And there's the electro house music that he loves which finds its way into the music. I love the Leo Messi and Derrick Rose parts but David Beckham's was kind of wanting. But in spite of that, I love Sid Lee's work especially their digital ones. I guess once an advertising man always an advertising man. 

Previously I made mention about my passion for art as well. As a kid, my siblings and I were all weaned on art. We went to art school (in Makati and later the CMLI). I painted and drew and to this day prefer water color. It was only later on that I shifted to writing. In fact, I am not the only one in my family to do that (shift from art to writing). There's my mom and my cousin Christine who used to write for the Philippine Daily Inquirer and now publishes Travelife magazine. 

My parents' house has paintings not only from my mother (who once painted at Rody Herrera's gallery) in Greenhills but my brothers as well. While I no longer draw much, I still love art and advertising. I once in a while purchase advertising and art books. I used to collect Heavy Metal (I loved the Cholly and Flytrap and The Sacred and the Profane series) as well as Epic Illustrated. My tastes are eclectic from Norman Rockwell (whose work I absolutely adore) to Andy Warhol to Roger Dean (who is one of my faves) to George Rodrigue to Hans Godo Frabel to Banksy. I love Rodrigue's Blue Dog series. If I do have money to spare, I hope to buy some of his works.

Alaska Aces: One night in March

This appears in the Monday March 28, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.

OH, LET ME HANG AROUND HERE FOR A WHILE. Cyrus Baguio suspends himself for a twisting layup over Marlou Aquino for a bucket.

One night in March
Alaska Aces 104 vs. Meralco Bolts 101
by rick olivares with photo by tunying p

March 25, 2011
Araneta Coliseum

It was another Friday night in the middle of March.

Traffic sucks outside on a gimmick night. People are streaming out from offices and graduation ceremonies. And there’s a pair of basketball games going on in the old hoop house in Cubao one of which is the sort that you’ll talk about for years and will grow with every retelling.

It began with a highlight. Alaska Aces off-guard Cyrus Baguio found teammate LD Williams lurking in the stratosphere and the former Wake Forest Deacon, who was staring down into the hoop, obliged his fellow gravity-defying teammate with a big time flush.

Two minutes and thirty-eight seconds later, Baguio suspended himself and everyone’s imagination with a jolens layup to put Alaska a point behind Meralco 7-6. Skyrus was on his game. It would be a good sign for the Aces because they would need all hands on deck for this one because barely a minute later, the course of the game would change.

After getting inadvertently poked in the eye by Gabby Espinas, Williams squinted, looked for a teammate while hoping the officials would whistle a deadball. He found neither. Half blind, he swung an elbow that grazed the Bolts’ Mac Cardona who double-teamed the American.

Now the whistle came. Only it was against Williams who was assessed a foul and a flagrant two at that. Meaning he was tossed from the game. Alaska head coach Tim Cone felt that sudden rush of blood to his head. Having lost to Talk ‘N Text a week earlier, playing without Williams meant that there was the possibility that they could lose the game to Meralco and getting dropped further down the standings.

To say that Cone was irate is an understatement. He was fucking pissed. And Cardona, ever the agitator tried to further get his goat by saying a few choice words that saw a brief exchange between the two. Cone was summarily teed up by the officials.

“I was flabbergasted by that call,” fessed up the thirteen-time PBA champion coach as three free throws gave the Bolts a 12-6 lead. “I was ready to concede the game right there.”

Only his team wasn’t.

Baguio showed that this if Alaska was going to find a way to win this game it would be by guile and constantly plugging away.

The heir to Paul Alvarez in the dormant air force of Alaska suckered Chris Ross into fouling him in the three-point zone. He did a pirouette to lose Cardona and hung in the air for a couple of seconds while gravity did the rest to Meralco center Marlou Aquino for a twisting layup to stay within striking distance 27-25.

Then Joe Devance, whose right ankle had balled up into the size of a tennis ball, found the verve to play in pain. Devance finished with 19 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 blocks. He took a bounce pass from Brandon Cablay as he hopped, skipped, and jump for a layup that gave Alaska an improbable 43-42 lead to show that they would not go gently into that good mid-March night.

But Meralco, on a two-game win streak, found the guns of Champ Oguchi, Sol Mercado, Ross, and Cardona firing on all cylinders.

Right before the Bolts ran onto the Araneta Coliseum Maplewood for their warm ups, Cardona yelled out one simple instruction to his teammates: “Talunin natin Alaska!” And they seemed well on their way to doing just that.

Oguchi, Mercado, and Cardona were having another phenomenal night as they combined for 77 points. Oguchi, the former Illinois State Redbird was hitting shots from everywhere; many of them with Aces’ forward Tony dela Cruz in his face.

At the 6:39 mark of the fourth quarter and Meralco up by 87-76 following a Mercado free throw, Cone sent back dela Cruz, Baguio, Devance, and LA Tenorio to join Sam Eman on the floor for one final push.

Then Tenorio, in another scintillating performance, scored 11 points including three triples in the last six minutes of the fourth quarter while playing great defense. Tenorio and Baguio hounded Meralco’s ball carriers into one error after another including the pilfering of Cardona’s pocket that led to an and-one off Mercado by Skyrus with 32 seconds to play.

While Mercado didn’t seem to foul Baguio, Alaska’s guard left some change off the window when he missed the free throw that would have iced the game. Meralco muffed a chance to bury Alaska but Oguchi lost the ball on a drive and Baguio drove the lane for another lay-in. This time, former Aces teammate Rey Hugnatan blocked his path and clearly fouled Baguio on the arm. With .3 of a second left, Baguio whiffed on one of two free throws – “I was surprised he missed one shot,” Cone said later on as he thought that the former UST Growling Tiger had finally got his free throw shooting pulse.

And it was on to overtime.

Oguchi nailed a jumper. Cyrus chased down a missed shot of his own to find an open Devance that tied the match. Oguchi missed a jumper and Alaska answered with a go-ahead basket by Devance as the Alaska crowd came alive. Meralco’s Gabby Espinas short-armed a jumper that Devance converted on the opposite end for another bucket. And just like that, it was 100-96 for Alaska.

Oguchi scored to bring the Bolts a bucket down and calm some bench anxieties but on Alaska's next offensive, Tenorio found dela Cruz who was alone on the right wing. Dela Cruz, the 12-year pro from West Covina, California was 1-9 from the field at that point. “As a shooter, you always try to keep shooting because the mindset is you’re going to make that next shot. I knew my shots were short up to that point so I made sure I followed through on it.” The jumper swished through for a 102-98 Alaska lead.

Then on the next play, knowing that Oguchi was going to be given the shot, dela Cruz, determined not to be beaten again, blocked the three-point attempt. Tenorio finished off Meralco with two more free throws for a 104-101 win.

As Tenorio took his place on the free throw line, Cardona looked at the PBA Commissioner’s Row with a disbelieving look. He shook his head at how they could let a won game slip away.

It took Cone a minute to compose himself before he addressed the media. By the time he faced his team, he gave in to his sentiments.

“Friday night in the middle of March. It’s just become memorable. It will fade a bit but this one you will remember. The intensity, the desire, and the overtime win this one Friday night in the middle of March…”

Alaska 104Tenorio 33, Devance 19, Baguio 17, Thoss 9, Borboran 5, Eman 5, Williams 4, Custodio 4, Cablay 4, dela Cruz 4, Thiele 0

Meralco 101Oguchi 30, Mercado 24, Cardona 23, Espinas 10, Ross 7, Taulava 5, Isip 2, Gamalinda 0, Hugnatan 0, Aquino 0, Ritualo 0

LA Tenorio was cramping up in overtime and asked for a minute. “I just needed a few seconds to rest before going back in,” he later said. And he did. He found dela Cruz for his sixth assist of the match and the strength to hit two of four free throws. “I learned my lesson,” added LA. “It’s a bad habit that I have. I sweat so much. And I needed that short rest. Buti na lang we held on.”

Alaska next plays Rain or Shine (next Friday) while Meralco goes up against Air21. 

Cyrus Baguio’s best shots of the game: the jolens layup, the Chris Ross sucker play, the hang time shot, the stretch lay-up, and the layup on Sol Mercado. Below is the "jolens" shot.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chad Ochocinco tries out for Sporting Kansas City

How do I feel about Cincinnati Bengals wider receiver Chad Ochocinco’s attempt to land a spot with new Major League Soccer club Sporting Kansas City?

Excited is what I feel.

Some may accuse Chad of being a gloryhound but I am willing to suspend that thought because it is never easy to be a professional two-sport star. The only successful one to do that was Deion Sanders who had a stellar American Football career primarily with San Francisco and Dallas where he finished with 22 touchdowns while returning the ball for 1,331 yards on the special teams. Sanders also played baseball with the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, and San Francisco Giants where his cumulative batting average was .263 -- a pretty decent number.

In 1989, he hit a home run for the Yankees and scored a touchdown for the Atlanta Falcons in one week and he remains the only professional athlete to do that. In fact, he has 39 career home runs and slugged a couple for every club he’s played with.

Providing contrast to Sanders’ feat is Michael Jordan who we all know had a great hoops career and a not so good baseball career with the Birmingham Barons and the Scottsdale Scorpions where he batted .202. However, the minor league baseball stint was a good attempt.

And there’s Bo Jackson, the LA Raiders running back and outfielder for the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, and California Angels whose career was cut short by injuries. How good was this guy? He was the MLB All-Star Game MVP in 1989 and made the NFL Pro Bowl in 1990. That says something about the man and his talent.

And that leads me back to Ochocinco. The MLS is improving as a league and unlike its predecessor the NASL, the clubs are growing as is the level of play. The learned from the mistakes of the NASL. While the growth and quality is there, Ochocinco has a chance to make it albeit slim because for one, he is more athletic and has good tools to build with as opposed to other unskilled players. It might be a longshot but I do hope he makes it. And a strong MLS will be better for the sport.

You may follow Chad Ochocinco on twitter @ (I do as do several of the Sporting Kansas City players). On another note, I kinda like SKC's jersey. In fact, am planning to get one when I can!

Speaking of two-sport stars, I enjoyed Karl Malone's and Dennis Rodman's stints as pro wrestlers (at the time they were playing for the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls). The Mailman teammed up with Diamond Dallas Page and the Worm was with the NWO. This was back when WCW was a great alternative to the WWE. Loved following the NWO. Too bad my shirt doesn't fit me anymore. Hahaha. But those Rodman-Malone battles were hilarious.  

Last chance to advance for the Azkals

This appears in the Friday March 25, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.

Last chance to advance for the Azkals
by rick olivares

The Azkals are at a crossroads.

The early elation of advancing to the group stage of the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup after outlasting Mongolia has now been replaced by concern. After two consecutive draws—1-1 with Myanmar and a scoreless affair with Palestine—the Azkals have only two points to show so far in the four-country group stage.

Incredibly, Palestine, which last made the quarterfinals in 2006, is on top of the group with four points off a 2-0 win over Bangladesh in its opening match as well as from the draw with the Philippines on Wednesday evening.

Bangladesh is in second place with three points following a stunning 2-nil victory over Myanmar. Spectacular goals by Shakil Ahmed and Abdul Baten Mojumder Komal surprised the host nation and put the standings in disarray with the early favorites—the Philippines at third and Myanmar at the bottom of Group A with one point.

The Philippines and Bangladesh play each other on Friday at the Aung San Centre at 5 p.m.

The Azkals had an opportunity to break the scoring drought when team co-captain Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong’s blast in the 64th minute was blocked by ’keeper Abdullah Saidawi. Forward Yanti Bersales corralled the rebound but was unable to convert his shot.

Palestinian striker Murad Alyan, who scored both his country’s goals over Bangladesh, nearly had his third successful strike of the tournament when his shot hit the post in the 18th minute.

The Philippines will have its hands full against the Bengal Tigers as the 11 from Bangladesh is known by. The team has a penchant for being giant-killers. Besides skewering Myanmar, the Tigers, who play in a country where football is a far second to cricket, previously beat Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2-0.

The Bangladesh side has also pocketed podium finishes in the South Asian Football Federation in 2003 and the South Asian Games in 2010. And they will be facing a Philippine team without defender Rob Gier who will be flying back to England with his wife on the family way.

Although Azkals Hans Michael Weiss preached prudence and caution entering the group stage because of the unpredictability of their opponents, expectations have been high for the nationals who have been beefed up by some regulars and new finds in Filipino-Spaniard Angel Guirado and Filipino-Dane Jerry Lucena.

For the Philippines to advance to the quarterfinals—which takes place next year—the Azkals have to beat Bangladesh and hope that Palestine does not earn three points from Myanmar. Should Palestine figure in a draw, it will be level with the Philippines on total points. The tiebreaker will be the goal difference.

Good luck, Azkals!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

B-Meg deals Smart Gilas’ first loss

Smart Gilas' Japeth Aguilar muffs a dunk during the national squad's loss to B-Meg Derby Ace.

B-Meg deals Smart Gilas’ first loss
B-Meg Derby Ace 98 vs. Smart Gilas Pilipinas 90
by rick olivares pic by tunying p.

March 23, 2011
Araneta Coliseum
Staring at the face of elimination, the B-Meg Derby Ace Llamados bucked the loss of its best player and took advantage of the departure of the rock in the middle to deal Smart Gilas Pilipinas a stinging 98-90 upset.

With James Yap out with a calf injury, the Llamados did not look a gift horse in the mouth when the Nationals’ Marcus Douthit went down with a late third quarter ankle sprain with his side in front 54-48. With Aldrech Ramos still not a hundred percent recovered from an injury, Gilas head coach Rajko Toroman went to Greg Slaughter who himself had missed the team’s last few practices. B-Meg’s Kerby Raymundo immediately went to work on Slaughter netting five points inside the lane while KG Canaleta, not particularly known for his outside touch while playing college ball at UE, hit five free throws and a triple to bring the deficit to one 64-63.

As Gilas was wont to do for much of the game, they found the necessary degree of separation with a timely bucket. Mac Baracael buried a trey to close the third and give Gilas some breathing room 67-63.

Come the fourth quarter, B-Meg’s American reinforcement, Shamari Spears, came to life when he pumped in 11 fourth quarter points all of which were against the youthful Slaughter.

With Douthit and Ramos (who made a brief cameo appearance and didn’t do much) unavailable, Slaughter, the center of the Ateneo Blue Eagles, tried to hold the fort. He scored five points including a two-handed slam over Canaleta and Roger Yap that gave Gilas an 84-81 lead but a triple by Peter June Simon and a jumper by Spears gave B-Meg a two point lead with a minute left.

B-Meg had an opportunity to pad the lead by missed shot by Raymundo was rebounded by Gilas skipper Chris Tiu who drove all the way from one end to the another while delivering a difficult reverse lay up that trickled in. Both sides missed chances to win the game in regulation but it was B-Meg that found steadier footing in the extension.

A Simon triple that opened overtime scoring gave B-Meg a lead they would not relinquish as Gilas became unglued with a series of poor shots and errors. When forward Marc Pingris scored on an undergoal shot with 16 seconds left, B-Meg had an improbable 98-90 win against the nationals who are clearly a much tougher outfit this time around (as compared to their first PBA stint that was the 2009-10 Philippine Cup).

“I feel great about the win,” said B-Meg head coach Jorge Gallent whose side must now win its remaining matches against struggling San Miguel Beer and surging Talk ‘N Text if they want to advance to the next round of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup and to keep their franchise streak of advancing past the eliminations for 11 consecutive conferences. “There was no special drive to beat Gilas. The plan was just to beat whoever is out there on the court and I think we had a good game plan. Malas din sila dahil they lost Douthit.”

By the time Douthit went out of the game, B-Meg’s big men were outrebounding Smart Gilas 47-32 with 15 of them coming off the offensive glass. And in the fourth quarter, the Llamdos’ dominance of the shaded lane was all but absolute as they grabbed 16 boards (nine offensive caroms) to the Nationals 13.

“Believe it or not, Gilas shot better than us,” added Gallent. “We just hustled for our shots and second chances. And we made more free throws.” B-Meg connected on 20 of their 25 free throw attempts while Gilas shot 60% (18-30).

Toroman on the other hand, refused to be worried about the loss of Douthit. “Some people say that we depend a lot on Douthit (who averages 21.8 points and 19.4 rebounds per game),” said the Serbian who is on his third year mentoring the team. “But as you can see, our team went without an import for almost 20 minutes and even had a chance to win.”

“Malas din kami,” said Gilas co-captain Mark Barroca who finished with seven points and was a non-factor in the game’s outcome. “Nadali kami sa error at missed shots. Sayang.”

B-Meg Derby Ace 98Spears 26, Simon 20, Pingris 18, Raymundo 17, Canaleta 13, Yap R. 4, Gaco 0, Fernandez 0, Escobal 0, Adducul 0

Smart Gilas 90Baracael 19, Tiu 16, Lassiter 14, Douthit 14, Barroca 7, Casio 6, Aguilar 6, Slaughter 5,  Lutz 3, Ababou 0, Ramos 0

Notes: B-Meg was without James Yap (strained calf), Rico Maierhofer (ACL), Jonas Villanueva (ankle), Don Allado (foot), and Rafi Reavis (hand). The match was possibly the last for B-Meg import Shamari Spears. Smart Gilas' Marcus Douthit should be back by Sunday's match against Powerade. 

Going back to the Smart Gilas beat, effendis! Watch out for some new stuff.