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, September 1, 2011

Ateneo-UP Round 2: Twenty-two

This appears in

by rick olivares
photo by brosi gonzales

This is actually a game where you hope for the best but expect the worst. But bear in mind that there is an ocean-wide difference between playing with pressure to win, to keep the win streak going, and to win another championship as opposed to simply trying to get a win and upset the top dog.

In the first two years of the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ current title reign, they played with a sense of purpose and mission. There were occasional bumps on the road but they always rebounded and displayed steel resolve in putting foes in their place.

This year… well, it’s different. A different ballgame with new cast members. The hunger remains the same but you get the feeling that the cure for the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ boredom is to play the upper echelon teams or get on with the Final Four. The proof is on the court of play and the stat sheet.

For the casual Ateneo supporter, the cure for boredom is to flagellate themselves into watching every game even the ones with the potential to get ugly.

Sure the Blue Eagles beat the UP Fighting Maroons 73-58 but the final score does not begin to tell the entire story of a game that was sloppy by their standards. Case in point, they turned the ball over 22 times that led to 23 points by the Maroons who also had 17 second chance points!

This was the first game this year where Ateneo committed three 24-second shot clock violations. Prior to this match, the blue and whites had committed the second fewest number of shot clock violations with seven. La Salle had the fewest with six and UP had eight. Now we have 10; the same number that UE and NU have. FEU has 12. UST has 15 while Adamson leads the league with the dubious distinction of having 18.

We committed three in this game and one with still three seconds left to play. Even worse, with 60 seconds left in the game the team committed four turnovers all of which led to points.

A win, the saying goes, is still a win whether one won by a hundred points or one. And as Norman Black expounded post-match, “At this point, I am not concerned with statistics but in getting wins. We didn’t get out and run today as they did a very good job on their transition defense. When we get closer to the end, the teams will get better defensively and not give us easy and fastbreak points.”

The seventh-year head coach of the Blue Eagles also said that it has been a challenge keeping the team ready, healthy, and fresh for every game. “We try not to overwork them in practice. We train hard but know when to let step off the gas and let them recover. Normally in most cases we come out with a lot of energy and not with tired legs.”
In a perfect world, we’d like for the team to lay the smackdown on all comers. But this was supposed to be the year where almost every team had a chance to nail a Final Four slot. And entering the Thursday game day, only UP and UE had been eliminated from contention. The Blue Eagles are the only ones guaranteed of being the number one seed but the second, third, and fourth seeds have yet to be determined. As it is, it could go all the way to the final play date of the elimination round.

But in this imperfect game, there are still things to feel good about.

There’s Greg Slaughter who prompted FEU to hatch a plan to recruit Kobe Bryant (I know they are serious about this so sue me). Double and triple-teamed for most of the game, he was 3-11 from the field but was 12-17 from the stripe. He scored 18 points and pulled down 18 rebounds (to go with one assist and one block). It’s always good to have the Big Fella in the lane.

Nico Salva when he is flying in the lane and hitting an assortment of jump hooks, fadeaways, and line drive jumpers is a joy to watch. He 16 points and hauled down 6 boards. He also had three assists and two swats.

Justin Chua had another good game as he gave Ateneo another scoring option down low with 11 points. The fourth year center also grabbed 10 boards and rejected two shots.

Tonino Gonzaga zagged and Kiefer Ravena tantalized us with that otherworldly talent.

It might have not been as pretty as putting the big hurt on La Salle last Sunday but it’s good to know that even on bad days where the team commits 22 turnovers, three 24-second shot clock violations, and looked less sharp then normal, the Ateneo Blue Eagles were able to reach deep inside and pull out – once more, on a bad day – a win borne out of tried and tested resolve, grit and that one big fight.

Smile. We’re 12-0. 

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