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, October 13, 2011

B-Meg-Alaska: The Battle of the Necktie Brigade

The Battle of the Necktie Brigade
Part One: The Big Mo
by rick olivares with pics by brosi gonzales

October 12, 2011
Araneta Coliseum

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Tim Cone entered the B-Meg Derby Ace Llamados’ dugout. The players and team management applauded and the American coach managed a smile.

“Where’s everybody?” he asked noticing that forwards Rafi Reavis and Marc Pingris were missing.

“In the shower, coach.” offered one of the ball boys.

“Everybody get back here for a while,” said Cone. “Let’s have a quick talk then you can go back to your shower and so you can all get home.”

“There are going to be some changes around here.”

in the middle of the dugout the jerseys of the players were neatly stacked atop one another on one side with the trunks piled up next to them.

Reavis entered fresh from the shower hardly covering himself with a towel. He grinned at the coach who grinned right back.

“So is he (Reavis) the Willie over here?” wondered Cone who was referring to Willie Miller who once played for him in his former ballclub Alaska.


Once his team settled down, Cone addressed the silence: “I’d like to thank you for coming out the way you did tonight. You knew this game meant a lot to me and I thank you for all the support.”

Gathered around Cone were three of his former players in Alaska – Joe Devance and the retired Johnny Abarrientos and Jeff Cariaso who were both part of his coaching staff. Once the new B-Meg coach was done, he gathered his team for one last huddle: “One. Two. Three.”

“Together!” chorused the entire Llamados team.

A month into his new job and the San Miguel Corporation ballclub had all the feel of his old Alaska team -- from the coach to the patented neckties to the triangle offense to the man-to-man defense right down to the team cheer of “together.”

And the game had all the feel of playing against a mirror image.

Following a JR Reyes bank shot that gave the Aces a 15-2 lead with 4:20 left in the first quarter, Cone had visions of a 35-blowout in the offing. He expected Alaska to break out of the gates like gangbusters. Why not? After all this game was not just an ordinary game (not matter how hard he tried to downplay it).

Alaska owner Wilfred Uytengsu was flying in from Kona, Hawaii (where he took part in the Ironman World Championships), yet he texted his coaching staff and players several times about winning this game. “Win at all costs kami,” shared point guard LA Tenorio two hours before tip off. “Buong linggo, it lang ang pinaguusapan sa practice.”

While Alaska gave Cone a send off with a press conference, it was a painful exercise for Uytengsu who felt betrayed by his former coach’s departure. A team official who asked to remain anonymous said that the team owner had stood beside Tim when other stakeholders demanded his firing during the lean years and this was how Cone repaid for his faith.

“We want to win this game and so will he (Cone),” succinctly described Joel Banal, Cone’s longtime lieutenant who replaced him as the Aces’ coach. And early on, it looked like Alaska was indeed on its way to its first win in two outings.

Alaska's early lead was good while B-Meg misfired on 22.2% field goal shooting in the first quarter. Running a hybrid offense that took bits and pieces of the Alaska’s famed triangle offense that was infused with pick and rolls, post ups and kick outs, Alaska looked like its deadly old self.

However with the firepower at Cone’s disposal in James and Roger Yap, Peter June Simon, Kerby Raymundo and Devance, it was a matter of time before their shots fell.

B-Meg began the second period staring at a 21-9 deficit. After James Yap scored on a layup, Josh Urbiztondo nailed a trey that was a harbinger of things to come. The Llamados pounced on Alaska’s second unit and shot for 61% to come within a bucket of tying the match at 37-35.

Come the third period, B-Meg countered the 13-point explosion by Sonny Thoss and Cyrus Baguio with a similar salvo from Simon and Raymundo. After a trey by Simon that gave the Llamados a 55-52 lead, Cone’s team would remain in the driver’s seat all the way to the game’s end.

The Aces stayed within striking distance of overhauling the deficit following a triple by Tenorio for a 69-66 B-Meg lead. But Urbiztondo, the refugee from the now defunct Air21 found himself wide open on three consecutive possessions when no Alaska player rotated over to him.

The result were three devastating three-pointers that sustained B-Meg’s momentum that propelled them to a 81-75 victory.

It was B-Meg’s first win in two matches and Cone’s first outside Alaska where he coached for 22 years and won 13 titles. “I have bittersweet feelings over this,” confided Cone on his way to the dugout following a post-match interview inside the media room. “But you have to get over things real quick or else people will walk all over you.”

During his quick post-match meeting, Cone thanked the coaching staff for dressing nattily complete with neckties. The idea of wearing neckties was company general manager Norman Ramos’ and it was meant to pay tribute to Cone and show him solidarity.

“I believe that this won’t be the first and last time we will be wearing neckties,” said a giddy Ramos outside the team locker room.

After the team broke the huddle, Cone raised his hand to exclaim, “Hold up, fellas.”

“Any one here met ‘Big Mo?’”

Murmurs of uncertainty answered him.

“’Big Mo’ is for “big momentum,” he revealed to ohhs and ahhs. “And we have to ride ‘Big Mo” all the way to our next game which is Meralco. And I understand that there is a big rivalry going on here since your former coach is now on the other side (there is also a corporate rivalry between the SMC group and the MVP group of companies to which Meralco belongs). Now, let’s make sure that we keep this going.”

The more things change the more they stay the same.

B-Meg 81Yap James 20, Urbiztondo 12, Raymundo 12, Simon 11, Devance 10, Reavis 8, Pingris 6, Ferriols 2, Barroca 0, Acuña 0, Maierhofer 0, Yap Roger 0.

Alaska 75Thoss 18, Reyes 15, Tenorio 11, Baguio 10, dela Cruz 9, Baracael 4, Custodio 4, Eman 3, Bugia 1, Cablay 0.

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