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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Letran demolishes Arellano U with smart bomb efficiency

Letran demolishes Arellano U with smart bomb efficiency
by rick olivares

Dive. Hustle. Challenge.

Those were the three key words that Letran head coach Louie Alas wanted his Knights to drum into their heads. He wrote them in bold letters on the whiteboard inside the team’s dugout at the San Juan Arena.

And the Intramuros quintet headed the words of their coach to fashion out a workmanlike win 73-59 win over Arellano University in yesterday’s NCAA Season 87 at the San Juan Arena.

Showing more poise borne out a more mature and offensively better lineup, the Knights have beaten foes by dominating the paint and shooting the ball better.

Against the crumbling 3-7 Arellano Chiefs who haven’t beaten any of the top tier teams, Letran hauled down 49 rebounds, dished off 18 assists, and stole the leather nine times. Arellano managed only 39 rebounds and 12 assists while being thoroughly outplayed on both ends of the floor.

Both teams played to three deadlocks in the early goings of the match. And following a Mark Cruz triple to close out the first period that gave Letran a 14-11 lead, the Knights would not surrender their advantage throughout the match.

While known as a tough and unforgiving defense unit under Alas, the Knights have incredibly been a share-the-wealth team and the second best scoring team in the league right behind San Beda.

And that was best illustrated during the 4:12 mark of the third quarter when rookie point guard Mark Cruz threw a crosscourt pass to swingman Jay Espiritu who was open on the left wing. Attracting an Arellano defender, Espiritu ditched him with a head fake and drove to the basket. Drawing out center Jerald Lapus, Espiritu wrapped around a pass to a suddenly open Junjun Alas who laid it off the window for a 49-37 lead.

While the Chiefs would try to make a game of it behind Andrian Celada, Rocky Acidre, and Lapus, they could come no closer than 10 points, 50-40,  following two free throws by freshman guard Mark Doligon at the 3:38 mark of the third period. “Trabaho lang,” urged Alas during a timeout just to make sure his would not let up on the flustered Chiefs.

Letran closed out the third period with six points to Arellano’s two for a 56-42 lead. They would maintain that 14-point lead up to the final buzzer of the game.

Alas’ son, Kevin, playing with a fever, continued his stellar season by leading the Knights in scoring with 17 points while Jam Cortes and Kevin Racal added 16 and 11 points respectively. The younger Alas, in sixth spot in the overall player rankings, also had seven rebounds and four assists. 

“Having better teammates has made the game easier for Kevin,” said coach and father. “Last year there was pressure on him to carry them team and he tried too hard that it affected his game. This year he’s more relaxed.”

“Having Mark Cruz come up from the juniors ranks helps because pusong Letranista yan,” added the coach who has led the Knights to three titles. Alas pointed out one instance in the fourth where he ran the pick and roll exquisitely with Cortes who scores on a nifty finger roll to pad the lead to 60-48 with four minutes to play. “He’s (Cruz) is a smart player who plays much bigger than his size.”

The win gave Letran an 8-2 record and put them at solo third in the standings right behind unbeaten San Sebastian (10-0) and San Beda (9-1).

Arellano’s seventh loss in 10 matches put a huge crimp on their final four aspirations. While the top three teams look to be a lock in their spots barring any second round tailspin, the fourth spot will be hotly disputed by Lyceum of the Philippines University, College of St. Benilde, Mapua Institute of Technology, and Jose Rizal University. All four team, even Arellano should they win all their remaining matches, have a chance to go the NCAA’s second season.

Notes: I have been covering Letran very closely these past three years and have been to their practices, team meetings, dugout before, during, and after games, and even lunch inside their campus. And I can’t help but notice how Louie Alas seems to be a different coach this year. He is teaching more, encouraging his players more, communicating more and practically being more patient. Inside the locker room, he allows his players to offer their inputs into what they do. If it’s a solid idea, he goes with it. the results are quite revealing because the team has played much much better.

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