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, August 4, 2011

UP Fighting Maroons vs FEU Tamaraws: Big Fish

Big fish. Big win.
by rick olivares photo by brosi g.

Ricky Dandan sat in front of the media with the same face he wore during the match between the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons and the Far Eastern University Tamaraws. The long time Joe Lipa assistant spoke at length about his team’s mindset, the stats that said it was possible to win, and changing one’s attitudes. But at the end of it, his Fighting Maroons caught themselves a “big fish” in a scintillating 76-63 win.

Basketball is deadly serious business. Even as a player for the Maroons, Dandan was a hard-nosed player, intense, and giving his all despite his physical limitations.

His assistant and former teammate, Joey Mendoza, revealed a simple secret minutes before the match began: “Today’s game in general is all about speed and power. When we were playing, utak lang talaga. More than half the battle was mental. We just have to drive this into the heads of the boys.”

After Tams rookie Mike Tolomia put on a burst of speed to leave behind guard Mike Gamboa for a stretch layup, FEU was behind the Maroons by a solitary point 38-37.

And this is where all those jokes about UP hoops are repeated ad infinitum.

They will play hard for the first three quarters then patay na sa fourth.

Moriah Gingerich just scored his first two point bucket in three years kaya quota na so inupo ni coach. He did hit a trey versus the University of the East for UP’s other win so the joke is if the former Faith Academy player scores, chalk up another W for the Maroons.

Sa halftime cheer na lang tayo bumawi.

However, instead of wilting, the Maroons displayed that mental fortitude that Mendoza preached and closed out the last three minutes of the third quarter with a 13-5 blast for a 51-42 lead.

And when the fourth period began, the unlikely line up of Jelo Montecastro, Jett Manuel, Julius Wong, Mark Juruena, and Mike Silungan faced that Tams’ Terrence Romeo, Jens Knuttel, RR Garcia, Christian Sentcheu, and Al Ramos.

The Diliman squad’s fatalistic supporters wondered if the Maroons could pull out a win and not shoot themselves on the foot. But as the Maroons held the Tamaraws at bay, the crowd too, gained confidence.

 “We just need some consistency,” said sophomore gunner Mike Silungan right before the game. “Well, we do need a lot of things but we’re not at a point where we’re going to roll over and surrender.”

After Silungan scored on a drive, Tolomia, showing he’s got a big game written all over him, scored on another layup.

The Maroons misfired on their next offensive but Silungan picked Garcia’s pocket clean. He drove upcourt then fed Manuel for an open trey that sent the UP side of the Araneta Coliseum rocking. It was 56-44 with under eight to play.

Even as Tolomia and Garcia waxed evident of the ice water in their veins, UP banked on pure adrenaline plays and some magic to continue to hold off the Tamaraws.

Manuel scored on a jolens shot off a putback of a missed trey by Silungan.

Alinko Mbah scored six points and rejected Ramos.

And Silungan knocked down a triple at the 2:11 mark for a 69-56 lead.

Against National University and the University of Santo Tomas, FEU, down for long stretches, came back at the five-minute mark. A basketball observed wondered aloud that should the Tamaraws miraculously come back, they should be crowned this year’s come back kings.

Only UP was not going to blow this.

The Maroons blanked FEU for a precious minute and by the time Tolomia (12 points including 7 in the fourth period) knocked down a jumper, there was 1:12 left on the clock and the score was 73-58.

If UP was suspect for being clutch during crunchtime, FEU once more showed betrayed its poise.

With 1:18 to play in the third period, Knuttel was whistled for a delay of the game infraction; FEU’s second of the game. Manuel hit the two technical free throws for a 45-40 lead. In the ensuing possession, Mark Juruena scored and it was 47-40.

At the 2:26 mark of the fourth quarter, FEU head coach Bert Flores was whistled for a technical foul for entering the playing court (he didn’t notice that the refs whistled a UP player for a foul that sent Garcia to the stripe for two). Manuel promptly made both freebies that negated Garcia’s two shots. That gave UP a 66-56 lead.

And following a second unsportsmanlike foul by Mark Bringas (who was sent off and will miss FEU’s next game against Ateneo), Alinko Mbah hit a free throw and Montecastro scored for a three-point swing, 74-59.

So much for another FEU comeback.

The day began, for the UP Fighting Maroons, with an air of giddiness. They felt pretty good about themselves despite being 1-3.

Now at 2-3, they felt even better.

Big fish?

Not yet, surmised Dandan. There are many more to fry.

Tito Bombit! What did I tell you? 

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