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 8, 2011

La Salle-NU: Dream's end

Dream’s end
The De La Salle Green Archers fell short while fighting for their playoff lives. And after another demoralizing loss, they are still searching for answers. 
by rick olivares with photos by brosi gonzales

With the ecstatic cheers of the UST crowd ringing in their ears, the La Salle Green Archers filed out of their dugout, the dismay written all over their faces.

The NU Bulldogs who played the spoiler’s role to the hilt when they whipped their long time tormentors 56-40 dashed La Salle’s hopes for a play-off for a final four seat.

It was the Green Archers who previously held the Bulldogs to a then-UAAP low total output of 40 points back in 2004. Seven years later, the payback couldn’t have come at a worst time.

The season had not gone according to plan. This was a team that was built to topple their archrival from Loyola Heights off their lofty perch. Instead, the blue and white reasserted their mastery over the Taft Avenue-based foes and they were dealt a variety of heartbreakers over the course of two rounds.

Yet incredibly, there was still a lifeline and they once more found themselves fighting for their lives. At stake was a playoff for a Final Four slot. All they had to do was win their last three games. But it wasn’t that simple. Their fate was in the UST Growling Tigers’ hands. The España-based team had to lose at least one match in order for a playoff to take place.

But that was looking ahead. There were the Bulldogs who were previously on the raw end of a terrible beating at the hands of Ateneo. Eliminated from contention, they were now playing without any pressure. La Salle on the other hand…

Sophomore Archer Almond Vosotros was brilliant in the first half as he scored 15 points on a variety of shots. However, his guns fell silent in the second half as he missed all five of his shots and split a pair of free throws. Yet Vosotros could hardly be blamed for the loss.

One game after that sterling comeback against UP where the Green Archers got contributions from a lot of sources, they were mostly flat against NU, another team trying to pick up the remains of a wretched season.

La Salle seemed on the verge of stealing another game as they finally took the lead at the end of the third quarter, 35-32.

At the start of the fourth period, LA Revilla banked in a runner for a 37-33 lead. At the 7:05 mark, a Maui Villanueva inside stab gave La Salle a 39-36 lead. It was to be their last field goal in the game.

In NU’s next offensive, Parks hit a trey of his own while fading and time running down on the shot clock to even up matters. On the defensive end, the Bulldogs clamped down on defense to hold La Salle to one free throw in the last seven minutes.

Playing for pride and a respectable end to their own nightmarish campaign, the Bulldogs coaching staff led by Eric Altamirano exhorted their team to play together. The message was clear on the team’s white board in the final pre-game instructions: “Stop their transition game and force them to play a halfcourt offense.”

“We like our chances in a halfcourt game,” pointed out Altamirano.

“We want to get back at them for our first round loss (63-74 last July 28),” underscored Parks before the game. “Let’s finish strong.”

And finish strong they did as the Bulldogs dropped a 17-1 bomb in the game’s last seven minutes. Even in the game’s waning moments, several Green Archers had wide-open three-point attempts. “But it was as if there was a lid on top of the basket,” described center Arnold Van Opstal who was scoreless in 11 minutes and had only two rebounds to show for the match.

“We only had one guy (Vosotros) who played well,” said a very disappointed Dindo Pumaren during a quick interview before he left the Araneta Coliseum. “All the others had – two points. Ganyan lang. While sa NU, we were surprised by yung mga hindi nagagamit (Cedrick Labing-isa, Reden Celda, and Ajeet Singh who collectively scored eight points and pulled down six rebounds but were major pests on defense).

And there was Kyle Neypes who in 15 minutes scored five points and only had one rebound. But in place of the foul-plagued Emmanuel Mbe, Neypes’ points and defense on Norbert Torres were like three-point daggers.

Daggers such as that deadeye triple that Parks (a game high 25 points) hit to see his squad draw level. And after the game, the Bulldogs had tied La Salle for 5th place in the standings with a 5-8 record with a game to spare.

When the broken La Salle team filed into their dugout deep in the bowels of the Araneta Coliseum, the silence was deafening.

For quite some time no one said a word let alone moved. Then the team managers spoke. They spoke about trying to finish the season on a good note (beating FEU which is a tall order for their final game of the tournament) and the reassessment of the team and the players once the year is done. Even at the end, no answers were forthcoming.

As the players slowly emerged from the dugout an hour and five minutes after they entered, they were still groping with the fact that it was all over.

“It hurts,” said forward Joshua Webb who not only missed the game with a minor injury but has also seen his minutes diminish this year.

“This is the second time I’m experiencing not going to the final four,” he added referring to the 2009 season where the team also fell short. “But him,” said Webb as he pointed a finger at Van Opstal, “He isn’t used to it.”

“In the biggest game of the year, we didn’t have the energy. Once our shots stopped going in, our confidence followed,” explained Van Opstal who was fighting to temper the rage within. “But I don’t know. I just don’t know why.”

Forward Joseph Marata was also at a loss for words. “I know I tried my best but wala…”

Marata joined his teammates who lingered at the far end of the south most area of the Araneta Coliseum. They could hear the UST crowd roaring as they were pummeling the FEU Tamaraws. The Tigers were fighting to live on for another day.

Thankfully, the black curtains that hung from the entrance leading to the court were drawn and so they were unable to see any of the hardcourt action going on.

Without another word, the Archers quietly filed out.

1 comment:

  1. That was really an interesting scene. They are all eager to win that's they burst an emotion like that.