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.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ateneo-UST Round Two: 42

by rick olivares

In their eighth assignment of the season, the Ateneo Blue Eagles responded to a huge challenge where they snatched victory from the jaws of a hungry and angry foe. There was the first round sweep yet there was nothing pretty about it. Games had been won on sheer grit and a champion’s fighting heart.

In the previous years, the team groped for form in the early stages before flashing its deadly form in the later stages and beyond. And this year, so far, the song has remained the same.

Before anyone anoints FEU as the king of the comeback for this year (for their three wins over NU, UST and UP), you might want to hold that thought.

Ateneo, in eight games, has always responded masterfully in the second half of play by putting on the clamps and the big hurt on its foes. In fact, you might want to chew on these nuggets:
Ateneo has come back after the half to play better and score the most points in the second half with an average of 39.4.
The Blue Eagles are the most fouled team in the fourth period with opposing squads whistled for an average of 9.6 fouls.
The Blue Eagles have attempted 77 free throws in the fourth period and have converted 56 of them for an accuracy rate of 73%.

Gaudy numbers aside, it wasn’t only Ateneo that had something going in the fourth quarter. The Growling Tigers too, had their pluses.

UST point guard Jeric Fortuna, who has emerged as one of the best players in the league has been averaging over 16 points per game. He was at his best in the fourth period where he played 8.4 minutes, the most of any player in the UAAP, while also scoring 6.1 points; also a league best.

Such is Fortuna’s value that when he cramped out late in a game against FEU, so went the Tigers’ chances.

So in the second round meeting between Ateneo and UST, something was going to be put to the test.

However, unlike the first round battle that saw Ateneo grind out a 66-53 win, this was well over, in pretty much the first half.

In the first quarter alone, UST had more (eight) turnovers than (six) points and (two) assists. The result was a 15-6 lead that would grow larger with each quarter.

In the second quarter, for every UST committed one turnover for every basket (16 points to eight TOs). The half-time lead was 40-22.

Now this is where we get to test if the Blue Eagles are the second half team that they are.

As the Tigers went about their first offensive of the third period, forward Chris Camus, who has not had good games against Ateneo, drove hard along the baseline. He tried to sneak in a bucket with a reverse lay-up but Greg Slaughter erased the shot.

While UST tried to once more deny Slaughter the lane, they also once more forgot to shut down the other Blue Eagles.

On the next attack, Kiefer Ravena found Nico Salva who faked a hand off before scoring on a layup.

Two sets later, Slaughter pulled down a brick before passing out to Emman Monfort who looked up ahead and threw a quick strike to a streaking Ravena for another deuce. Three touches. One dribble. Two points.

The 8-1 opening salvo in the third saw Ateneo on top 48-23.

After 30 minutes of play the score stood at 68-37 and only the final margin had to be settled.

The Blue Eagles scored 42 points in the second half topping their 39.4 average. They were fouled seven times and hit three of six free throws. Norman Black sent in all 16 of his men and every one of them contributed to the stat sheet be it a point, a rebound, an assist, a steal or a block. It was the first time that happened this year for Ateneo.

UST’s Pido Jarencio sent in 12 players however it was only Alijohn Ungria who did not have anything positive across his name in the ledger. Forward Chris Camus who was playing about 26 minutes per game played 21 this time and had no points. But he did have five rebounds. Fortuna played 9 minutes in the fourth quarter but only scored 5 points; less than his average.

After the match, Norman Black mentioned that part of the game plan was to showcase their offense and to play with more consistency. They have learned to adjust when a foe picks it’s poison – double team Slaughter or provide single coverage and just play everyone tough. Well, that’s like being between a rock and a hard place as the Blue Eagles never stepped off the gas pedal pausing only with six and change left in the fourth.

When it mercifully came to an end, the 82-57 win saw Ateneo remain unbeaten at 9-0. It would also be the fourth time in nine games they would win by at least 20 points with their second round tiff with UST having their largest margin of 25 points.

And they did it on close to 42% shooting.

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