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

Letran-JRU: Coming up aces

This appears in my column in

Coming up aces
Letran leans on Kevin Alas to repeat over struggling JRU
by rick olivares photo by jan dizon

August 31, 2011
The Arena of San Juan
There’s a missed shot. Jose Rizal University Heavy Bomber center John Montemayor thinks he’s going to easily collar the brick and initiate a fastbreak. Only he doesn’t get the ball.

The 6’7” center is horrified to see that Kevin Alas, six inches shorter, pulls down the offensive board. Without hesitating, the third year Letran point guard puts it back over the flailing Montemayor and John Lopez to make it 62-50 for the Knights.

Eighteen seconds later, Letran forward Jonathan Belorio rejects Lopez’s weak-ass drive (after which Belorio momentarily stares down Lopez) and pitches the ball to Alas who immediately races upcourt. Shifting to a higher gear, he leaves behind opposing number Phillip Paniamogan by two steps, glides in and splits the middle for a coast-to-coast layup. The Heavy Bombers head coach Vergel Meneses puts his hands over his head in anguish. “Defense!” he angrily yells.

Following another JRU miss, Mark Cruz, Letran’s other point guard gets the ball and mysteriously, he slows down just as he crosses the halfcourt line. The Knights’ head coach Louie Alas angrily gestures to Cruz to quicken the pace and whip the ball over to Alas who is on the right wing. Cruz immediately does so (and bonks himself on the noggin for not realizing his team’s advantage of pressing the attack at that moment).

The younger Alas attacks and fishes Montemayor’s fifth and last foul. He makes the first and upon realizing at the moment of his release that his second shot is short, rushes inside. He once more gets the offensive rebound. Belorio boxes out Lopez and Alas banks in deuce. Meneses is now livid.

After teammate Jam Cortes scores to make it 69-52 (Lopez squeezed in two free throws), Alas scores again at the 1:38 mark.

The Heavy Bombers call time and that gives Letran time to pull out Alas and the other starters. Win number nine in 11 matches is in the bag. Kevin scored nine points in two minutes as part of a 11-2 run that breaks the Heavy Bombers attack that seemed to find some range with Nate Matute beginning to make some shots. The final score is 75-56 as the Knights’ reserves hold the fort and then some.

Three years after debating whether to go to La Salle or stay in Letran (after a stellar high school career with the Squires), Alas is now playing a lot more comfortably. During his first year, the team still had veterans like Rey Guevarra, RJ Jazul, Reymar Gutilban, and Jaypee Belencion to take the shots. Last year, Alas struggled with his decision making and shot selection. Now with the addition of high energy players who could score some like Kevin Racal, Jay Espiritu, and the rapidly improving Raymond Almazan), the young Alas is able to pick his spots.

Unlike their first round encounter with JRU who they took out of the fight in the first half to coast to a 70-59 victory, this time Letran struggled for three quarters before uncorking a mighty wind up.

It was Racal who got Letran going as he scored six points at the start of the fourth quarter before he turned it over to Alas.

It was an impressively display of grit, focus, and purpose not just by Alas (who finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals with 3 turnovers) but also the Knights who were dead even with JRU in rebounds with 48 each. However, the Intramuros squad had 22 offensive boards to the 20 of the Mandaluyong team – Alas’ two snares.

But Letran had more assists (13-6), steals (8-3), and blocks (7-3).

“We wanted to win the game,” succinctly put the elder Alas. “This puts us firmly behind the leaders (San Sebastian undefeated at 11-0 and San Beda at 9-1) and maybe gives us a chance to win one against the top two. As for Kevin, he’s focused.”

Not to mention an ace up his sleeve.

CSJL 75 - Alas K. 17, Cortes 11, Cruz 10, Racal 10, Dysam 8, Almazan 7, Espiritu 3, Belorio 3, Alas J. 2, Pantin 2, Lituania 2, Mendoza 0, Cudal 0, Gabawan 0, Gabriel 0.

JRU 56 - Matute 15, Villarias 9, Monserat 9, Montemayor 8, Paniamogan 6, Carampil, 4, Lopez 2, Kabigting 2, Mendoza 1, ApiƱan 0, dela Paz 0, Tiongco 0.

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