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.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Aguilar’s stone cold stunner drops Petron; keeps TNT at the top

Aguilar’s stone cold stunner drops Petron; keeps TNT at the top
by rick olivares pic by nuki sabio/pba images & brosi gonzales

December 6, 2011
Smart Araneta Coliseum

The Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters walked back to their locker room with some players grinning from ear to ear while others smiled. Moments earlier, the defending Philippine Cup champions stunned rival Petron with an offensive  putback for a pulsating 70-68 win.

Ryan Reyes, out with a knee injury dropped an F-bomb that was equal parts relief and happiness that Rob Reyes of Petron glanced at him as he made his way to the Blaze Boosters’ dugout. One player didn’t show any emotion. Japeth Aguilar.

As he entered the hallway leading to his team’s locker room, his teammates caught up with him. “Japeth Aguilar!” boomed team consultant Norman Black. Teammate Bam Gamalinda pointed to his teammate’s chest where the heart was located. “Yan ang puso!”

The 6’11” center looked at me and offered a half smile and for a moment I thought that he was going to break out in tears. “Those were my only points…” his voice trailed. Hs other teammates caught up with him and slapped him in the back or patted him on the head. Injured center Ranidel de Ocampo pushed him inside the rapturous dugout and I raced to catch up with head coach Chot Reyes who was on his way to the media room for the post-match press con.

In the third quarter, the Tropang Texters trailing Petron, Chot Reyes sent Aguilar back into the fray. He played 12 minutes in the first half but had zero points and zero rebounds. The only statistic he had to show were two measly rebounds. Back in the game, he missed a defensive switch that led to a Blaze Boosters bucket and was unable to grab any rebound.

Reyes glanced at Rich Alvarez on the bench and sent in one former Blue Eagle for another. As Aguilar trooped back to the bench, the TNT head coach growled at his enigmatic center who could have an awesome match one day and turn into the invisible man in the next. And in this match Aguilar looked more of the latter and Reyes was sure to file an another missing persons report.

With 12.8 seconds left in the game, Petron’s Alex Cabagnot drained a trey following a broken play that gave is side a 78-76 lead. In the final 24 minutes of play, both protagonists battled through four deadlocks and two lead changes. Cabagnot, the PBA’s newest Mr. Clutch had come through with lead changed number three.

In TNT’s final offensive, forward Harvey Carey grabbed the loose ball following teammate Shawn Weinstein’s wild shot and was fouled. Before the Carey took his free throws with 3.7 ticks left, Reyes once more sent Aguilar back to the fray in case of a miss.

The defending champions were the league’s version of the Walking Wounded. In sick bay were Ryan Reyes, Jared Dillinger, Aaron Aban. De Ocampo, and now point guards Jimmy Alapag and Jason Castro who both went out of the game never to come back. This team did not resemble the one that started the 37th season of the PBA. And Gamalinda and guard Shawn Weinstein were headed for the D-League when the rash of injuries struck TNT.

Petron was no less snakebit. They were still without last season’s Rookie of the Year, center Rabeh Al-Hussaini, forward Jay Washington, shooting guard Dondon Hontiveros, and rookie Chris Lutz. But Petron is one of the most dangerous squads in the pro loop. Even with their reserves they are a tough tough unit. Forward Arwind Santos once more tabulated a league-best 11th double double (11 points and 13 rebounds). Joseph Yeo was clutch as he scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth. And there was Cabagnot with his usual clutch-ness.

Carey trooped to the line where he was 2-3. His first shot found the bottom of the net making it 77-78. But his second rimmed out and Aguilar leaped high to snatch the offensive board away from Danny Ildefonso and Arwind Santos who he enjoyed a healthy rivalry with during his brief stint in the UAAP. Aguilar incredibly scored on the putback and was fouled by Santos giving TNT a 80-78 lead with 2.4 seconds left.

In Petron’s next inbound, Aguilar intercepted a long pass as time ran out giving TNT it’s 10th win in 13 games.

“I am proud of the way Japeth rebounded after his poor play earlier in the game,” said Chot Reyes outside the TNT dugout. “He showed that he is willing to rise to the challenge and for that we have a huge win.”

And that win put Talk ‘N Text one win away from topping the elimination round and giving them a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. Petron in the meantime lost its second straight game and is in danger of dropping all the way into a best-of-five series with the lower seeded squads that are nonetheless tough.

Outside the Smart Araneta Coliseum, a light rain fell. As Japeth Aguilar drove out of the Gateway Mall’s basement parking lot, he looked at me from his car window. He raised three fingers to signify his measly three points that gave his team a huge win. He was now smiling.

Talk ‘N Text 70 Williams 21, Fonacier 17, Carey 15, Castro 8, Weinstein 6, Gamalinda 4, Alvarez 4, Aguilar 3, Lao 2, Raymundo 0 Alapag 0.

Petron Blaze 68 – Miranda 15, Cabagnot 14, Yeo 12, Santos 11, Reyes 9, Ildefonso 8, Tugade 5, Guevarra 4, Doruelo 0, Baclao 0.

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