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, September 3, 2011

Ateneo-NU Second Round: Thirteen

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Every team is trying to knock the Ateneo Blue Eagles from their lofty perch. The NU Bulldogs are no different. Except what you don’t know is this is an emerging rivalry. And the first shots have been fired.
by rick olivares

The National University Bulldogs know that the road to a championship has to go through Ateneo.

In last year’s University Games, the two teams met in the semifinal round where the Bulldogs upset the Blue Eagles who were the defending champions. With the outcome already settled, the challengers punctuated that win with a last second slam dunk by Emmanuel Mbe that sparked an argument between the two teams. Even the coaching staffs of both squads got into it. The Bulldogs contended that it was payback for the second round game where Blue Eagle Chris de Chavez threw up an underhanded shot from the three-point line with a second left that went in for the final score of 69-49.

The Bulldogs went to win the Uni-Games where they beat Adamson in the finals.

Then last summer, the two teams met twice. The first was in the Filoil Premier Cup where the Blue Eagles (without Greg Slaughter) pulled the rug from under the Bulldogs 71-66. One month later, they met again this time during the semifinals clash for the Fr. Martin Cup. The Blue Eagles were on their third straight playing day as they alternated between the Filoil tournament and the Fr. Martin Cup (named after Ateneo’s former Athletic Director).

The Blue Eagles led up to the first few minutes of the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs caught up and posted a lead of their own. NU tried to put an exclamation point on that game when Bobby Ray Parks tried to jam one in front of Slaughter. The Big Fella blocked the attempt but was whistled for a foul. Parks knocked down both free throws to extend the lead; one they maintained for an 84-79 win. In the final moments of that game, NU supporters began chanting “uwian na” at the San Beda Gym. First year Bulldogs’ head coach Eric Altamirano quickly faced the jubilant supporters to silence them. The teams shook hands, but privately, some Blue Eagles not to mention team boosters couldn’t wait to get back at NU.

Altamirano’s squad went on to beat Mapua for the title claiming their second crown in eight months.

Come the UAAP season, the two faced each other in their third game of Season 74. And the Blue Eagles served up an 86-62 beating that was a reminder that league was an altogether different ballgame. Parks concurred and noted that “people will die to win the UAAP.” It’s a lesson that hoped his teammates would learn.

While not without some of the dislike or even anger reserved for other foes, these Ateneo-NU games have seen sparks of a burgeoning rivalry where incidents here and there have ensured that when the two meet, those dates on the calendar are circled in red.

Over in the Juniors Division, the Ateneo Blue Eaglets opened their second round campaign of this season with a loss to the Bullpups. It was a game that should have been uneventful until head coach Jeff Napa called for a timeout with his team comfortably ahead and the outcome decided. Past and present Blue Eaglet coaches who were present at the Blue Eagle Gym for the match yelled at Napa who once played for the Bulldogs in the early 2000s and whose team made the Final Four in 2002.

Napa apologized to his counterpart Joe Silva albeit a few days later. Silva accepted the apology but no doubt, it stuck a bone in Ateneo’s craw.

After a lethargic game against UP, the Blue Eagles were pretty much all business against NU. But first, they had to break the 2-3 zone that stifled them early on and force Nico Salva into three first quarter turnovers.

The two squads alternated scores, stops and turnovers but after the first 15 minutes of play, one stop served notice that it was time to put the challengers in their place.

Emman Monfort picked Ray Parks’ pocket clean and made off with a fastbreak layup to give Ateneo a 20-19 lead. It was a lead they would not surrender for the remainder of the game.

In a blitz reminiscent of Ateneo’s 72-49 thrashing of FEU in Game One of last year’s UAAP Finals, the Blue Eagles similarly clamped down on defense and silenced a potent NU crew.

In the first quarter, Ateneo led 12-11 and the Bulldogs shot 50% from the field. Come the second quarter where the Blue Eagles began to assert themselves on both ends of the floor, NU shot 25%. By the end of the third quarter, the field goal percentage was down to 18.8%. The Sampaloc-based team shot 25% in the fourth period but that was on 5-20 shooting.

They were given a clinic on defense, team play, and the spectacular.

Halfway through the second period, Kirk Long drove the lane but found it shut by Choy Ignacio. While drifting out of bounds, the Ateneo captain lofted a shot that went in.

Early in the third quarter, Emman Monfort, in the midst of another superb game, darted inside after a feint. With two defenders trying to close the lane, the Blue Eagle guard zipped a pass to a cutting Slaughter who laid in the ball with a foul to boot. The three-point play was good for a 34-22 lead.

In the fourth period, Kiefer Ravena poked the ball away from Joseph Terso. Long recovered the ball and pitched it to Ravena who had begun to make his way upcourt. The pass was high and the Blue Eagle rookie had to leap into the air to corral it. But in one motion he threw no look behind the back pass to Nico Salva who streaked towards the basket. Salva picked it up in stride and leaped up for a flush and a 55-31 lead.

National University was held down to 39 points, the lowest output by a UAAP team in at least two decades.* The previous low was 40 points ironically also by the Bulldogs who were shutdown by La Salle in match in 2004.

The resulting 61-39 win gave Ateneo a 13-0 record, the fourth time the team has won that many games in a season. Each time they won 13 games (1987, 2008, and 2009), the blue and whites went on to win the championship.

Only after the NU game did Norman Black mention the “s” word.

“We will go for it now, no question. We have no choice,” said Black of the potential sweep. “We want to win the game, that’s the bottom line. There is an incentive that goes with winning which can probably help us a little bit so that we can rest the guys a little bit and heal some injuries that we have. It’s worth going for and it is worth striving for.”

* I have been watching UAAP Seniors basketball since 1983 when I was in high school and I do not recall seeing (or reading) about a lower output. At that time, the games were held in three venues: Ateneo, UST, and Rizal Memorial Coliseum. I checked with Imperium Technology and although they were not handling the statistics of the matches in the 1990s, they were able to acquire some of the data from the 1990s. And since La Salle joined the UAAP in 1986, no one has scored less than 40 points in a game.


  1. Love that Salva dunk off a blind pass from Ravena!
    Highlight indeed!

  2. I believe it was Choi Ignacio who was guarding Kirk as he threw up that unbelievable shot.