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 10, 2011

Ateneo vs Adamson Second Round: 13-1

This appears in
Love the photo. See Kirk Long's expression after Alex Nuyles blows by him for a lay-up.

by rick olivares photo by brosi gonzales

The day after Adamson beat La Salle with an Alex Nuyles buzzer beating jumper to kick off their second round campaign, the school held a dinner for the media at the Yue Lai Seafood Restaurant in Malate.

Behind a table where school officials sat was a streamer that read: “Season 74 UAAP Men’s Basketball Champions – Adamson Falcons/Adamson Lady Falcons.”

It might have looked like a sign of hubris but the intention was wholly otherwise. Said Falcons head coach Leo Austria, “We are hoping that this will motivate them.”

Against the University of the East Red Warriors and the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, the Falcons lost focus (although they did come away with a win against the former). “Medyo Ateneo yung focus namin kasi,” revealed Alex Nuyles. “Gusto namin makabawi sa lahat ng mga talo namin.”

And boy did they and how.

Never letting Ateneo in the game, Adamson took it to the defending champs right from the beginning with a Lester Alvarez trey that was at least a foot beyond the arc.

And Nuyles… every chance he got, he drove to the basket. And like Alvarez, he even hit a triple from another zip code. When those shots are falling then it’s just your day.

After the disheartening loss to UST where they coughed up a 17-point lead, Nuyles was the last player out of the Adamson dugout a good hour and 15 minutes after the game ended. On his way out, he couldn’t say anything and merely tapped Austria on the shoulder. The head coach was the last one out and it seemed like he never went home because he had to endure two sleepless nights. “I wondered if I was a bad coach,” he recounted. Redemption, the collective belief, was to come in the form of a win against Ateneo. They had to rid themselves of the albatross and to ensure a final four.

On the eve of the long-awaited match with Ateneo, Nuyles went up to his coach and said, “Siguro ito na yung time na ‘to.”

And sure enough, every time Ateneo went on a mini-run, they answered with one of their own. The closest the Blue Eagles ever got was at 18-17 after a Greg Slaughter hook.

There were opportunities for Ateneo to take the lead but the Falcons pounced on the turnovers and badly missed shots. And it certainly didn’t help that Nico Salva self-destructed on his way to seven turnovers that Adamson fully took advantage of.

Trailing at 27-24 at the half, Ateneo switched and went to Salva at the post while Slaughter stayed at the 15-foot line where he could hit the medium range shot. But Salva missed the hook and one more possession later, the Blue Eagles went back to Slaughter down the blocks. But the Big Fella had to work for those 10 points (he only had five rebounds). It was a tough day at the office. Even that spectacular slam on a drive to the basket had to come on three defenders. That was how much he attracted attention.

But missed shots aside, the third quarter, Ateneo’s domain this season, was where Adamson cranked up their defense and won the game. They outscored their longtime tormentor 23-7 to make it 50-31.

At the 8:12 mark of the fourth period, the Falcons posted their biggest lead of 20 points, 52-32, after Austin Manyara swooped down on a missed jumper by a teammate to dunk it over Slaughter who failed to box him out.

And there was little that Ateneo could do after that.

With under a minute left in the game, and a sure Adamson victory, team manager Don Lerit hugged Austria. As time ran out on a 62-46 win by Adamson, fourteen long years of frustration and humiliation had been ended. Nuyles shed some tears at what they had achieved. They had rid themselves of the albatross (that was actually a blue eagle) and they grabbed the second final four seat and assured everyone of a Final Four instead of a dangerous-step-ladder format semis.

It was an emphatic victory. They held Ateneo to its lowest output in years (46) as well as the lowest field goal percentage this season (31.5%). The Blue Eagles lost for the first time in the second chance points department 10-2. They were beaten in every statistical category except in assists (12-8).

“This was a big and historic win for us,” said a proud Austria. “For the first time in our school’s history, we got the twice-to-beat advantage. And we beat a very good team. We gained a lot of confidence in this match and so will our supporters.”

Over at the Ateneo dugout, the mood wasn’t heavy. There was some disappointment as everyone will admit. But maybe it was for the best. No longer saddled with streaks, the team can just play. “We will find out on Thursday what kind of team we have,” said Norman Black.

“It’s disappointing,” added Kiefer Ravena. “But hopefully we can bounce back and begin a new streak. Our objective from day one was not a undefeated season but a fourth straight championship. That remains our focus and one loss does not change that.”

Notes: This is the fourth time that Ateneo will finish the eliminations 13-1 (1987, 2008, 2009, and 2011). Prior to this match, Nico Salva was averaging 2.2 turnovers per game. In this match he had seven while Greg Slaughter committed six.

Quote from Benjo Afuang, Coordinator, College Athletics Office: “Ngayon lang ako nakakita ng nagtapos ng 13-1 na malungkot.” Bwahahaha!

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