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.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Blue Eagles fight on for another day

This appears in
Nico Salva takes a shot over the defense of Ian Sangalang.

The Blue Eagles fight on for another day
by rick olivares pic by brosi gonzales

December 12, 2011
San Juan Arena
The Ateneo Blue Eagles summoned enough of their championship pride on a day when nothing seemed to go right for them to beat a tough San Sebastian team 56-51 in Game One of the Finals of the Philippine Collegiate Champions League.

The Stags, NCAA runners-up for two consecutive seasons, scouted the Blue Eagles well as they continuously raided the passing lanes and discombobulated the UAAP four-time champs’ finely tuned offense. By match’s end, Ateneo accumulated 26 turnovers that the Stags converted into 22 turnover points, 17 fastbreak points, and 10 second chance points.

“Never mind the turnovers,” encouraged Ateneo mentor Norman Black at the half. “It’s just one of those days. Get back on defense and on offense, attack their zone.”

But that was easier said than done as the Stags’ Calvin Abueva and Jovet dela Cruz repeatedly drove hard to the basket forcing double teams that left teammate Ian Sangalang to clean up the garbage. Even with seven-foot Greg Slaughter in the middle, the Stags showed no fear in taking the ball to the rack.

Tonino Gonzaga gave Ateneo a 26-23 cushion after 20 minutes of play when he drilled a triple with 40 seconds left in the first half.

But the Stags picked up from where they left off at the start of the second half as they twice overhauled a deficit that left their UAAP foes shaking their heads in disbelief. After Gonzaga scored on a twisting layup to give Ateneo its largest lead at 46-37 with time once more down to 40 seconds in the third quarter, the Stags incredibly blanked the Blue Eagles for the next six minutes and 25 seconds as they took a 48-46 lead.

Ateneo finally put points on the board the fourth period when Kiefer Ravena and Nico Salva both plunked down two free throws each that leveled the match for the ninth and last time. The free throws helped Ateneo rediscover their scoring touch from the field. In Ateneo’s next possession, Ravena hit a turn around jumper on dela Cruz and Salva split his charities for a luxurious three-point lead with 2:13 left to play.

The Blue Eagles had a couple of opportunities to put some distance between themselves and San Sebastian but a pair of turnovers (one by Ravena and the other by Oping Sumalinog) left the door open for a Stags’ comeback win.

However, Stags’ rookie guard AJ Vitug threw up an airball and Mike Miranda fouled Kirk Long who tacked on one more free throw for a 54-51 lead.

With a little over a minute to play, Sumalinog managed to poke the ball away from a driving Abueva and Salva picked up the loose ball. The Stag King fouled Salva and was irked by what he thought was a non-call that forced him to cough up the ball. The referee slapped a technical foul on San Sebastian’s workhorse that sent him to the bench for good. Sumalinog and Salva added one more free throw each to peg the final score at 56-51 as Ateneo escaped with its first win in three tries over San Sebastian this season.

Ateneo has not lost in any championship appearance since 2008 when they were beaten by La Salle for the PCCL title. Since then, they have won 10 crowns spread across the spectrum of collegiate tournaments and have an opportunity to add their 15 title in the Norman Black era when they face the Stags in the winner-take-all Game 2 of the PCCL Finals on Thursday at 3:30pm.

“It’s not very pretty but you take it any way you can get it,” said a relieved Black after the match. “We had a bad practice yesterday so I had to send them home early. We still had a bad game today but I am happy we won. It’s not very often that we have a defensive struggle but both teams turned the ball over repeatedly. We just outlasted them. I have to find a way to motivate them for one last game. It’s been a long season – the Filoil, the Fr. Martin’s Cup, training camp in the US, the UAAP, the Uni-Games, and there was the SEA Games. And we’re down to our last game and last tournament of the year then we’re off.”

Black added that he felt that the Blue Eagles were in vacation mode as the team will flying off to Hong Kong on Friday as a reward for winning their fourth straight UAAP title.

Addressing his team inside the locker room, Black said, “As your head coach, I am requesting you to come out with your usual enthusiasm to have a good practice on Wednesday and for one last game on Thursday. Let’s have a happy flight on the way out of here.”

Ateneo 56Salva 18, Ravena 10, Slaughter 7, Long 7, Gonzaga 5, Sumalinog 3, Golla 2, Chua 2, Tiongson 2, Austria 0, Erram 0, Monfort 0.

San Sebastian 51Abueva 16, dela Cruz 11, Sangalang 9, Vitug 9, del Rio 2, Ferrer 2, Miranda 2, Maiquez 0, Balacunag 0.

My thoughts: I am so impressed with how San Sebastian is playing. Without Ronald Pascual, they are giving Ateneo all they can handle. And head coach Topex Robinson did his homework against the Blue Eagles. He scouted them as well as any coach has ever done. The Thursday match should be a humdinger.


  1. Rick ,Monfort seemed to be out of synch the past 2 games! Maybe it's the Stags physically ugly style of play?

  2. Not at all. The team is just tired. The focus isn't there. Vacation mode.