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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kiefer Ravena reflects on the NBTC

Kiefer Ravena reflects on the NBTC
by rick olivares

When Kiefer Ravena thinks of the National Basketball Training Center, he thinks of opportunity.

There’s pressure when you’re the son of basketball great Bong Ravena. And that’s one half of his folks because mom, Mozzy, won a bunch of UAAP volleyball titles for UST. But Kiefer likes the pressure and thrives in it.

However, the first thing that is noticeable about the young basketball phenom is how he handles himself with humility. “Aside from learning about values from my parents, that is something I learned from the NBTC,” said Ravena who has won four straight tiles from high school to college. “We are taught that sportsmanship is important and that we have to conduct ourselves in a gentlemanly manner when on the basketball court.”

The young Ravena first took part in the NBTC program in 2007 when he’d go to the Philsports Arena for training outside his practices with the Ateneo Blue Eaglets.

“The training I got from the coaches as well as coach Alex Compton in particular really helped me,” he gushed. “The ‘Chill Drill’ -- that was our last situational drill during practice -- was the most fun and the most helpful. It’s definitely not ‘chill’ as it is a high-intensity all-in-one drill where we work the baseline, dribble a lot, play halfcourt then go in for a layup.”

“Kiefer is a smart kid who loves getting better,” pointed out Compton. “Says a lot about what kind of player he is to love the ‘Chill Drill.’”

“I said that the NBTC is an opportunity, di ba? It is here where I also first met many of my teammates on the youth national team. The NBTC opened doors for me and for many of my teammates. The others are now playing for other college basketball teams – San Beda, National University, La Salle, UP… It’s a good experience for all.”

When told that beginning this year, the NBTC will hold it’s first ever Seaoil All-Star High School Games where the best seniors from all over the country figure in an exhibition match akin to the McDonald’s All-American, Ravena frowned. “Ang daya!” he exclaimed. “Why wasn’t there one during my time?”

“But that’s good because it gives more exposure to deserving players. And that is what the NBTC is all about.”


After Game 3 of the recently concluded PBA Philippine Cup Finals, Kiefer Ravena had a conversation with Talk 'N Text guard Jimmy Alapag along Katipunan Avenue and the pro player told him to take care of his body and to avoid burnout. "That was very good advice and coming from a great player like Jimmy, I have to pay attention. I've been playing a lot of basketball so I am also worried about wear and tear. My parents always remind me of that. It is something I am conscious of."

Bleachers' Brew #297 The Rajko Toroman era comes to an end

This appears in the Monday, February 6, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
With coach at the UAAP games.

The Rajko Toroman era comes to an end
by rick olivares

Rajko Toroman flew back to Serbia Sunday night just as the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters vanquished the hard-fighting Powerade Tigers to become the first repeat All-Filipino champs in 27 years.

His departure officially ended the Serb’s era as head coach of the Philippine Men’s Basketball National Team. Unlike his arrival that was announced to much fanfare, Toroman left quietly. He packed his few belongings at the Eastwood condo that served as his home the past three years and opted not to take any calls.

When he arrived in Manila the other week, he met up with his former players in Smart Gilas who had moved up to the PBA. Even from afar, he kept track of their progress and how they had taken the Philippine Cup by storm. To watch them play made his heart swell with pride. He even knew their statistics. Not that I am surprised. He was always good at things like that. “Like a father watching his children,” he joked.

Contrary to his reputation as a difficult man to please, I had seen Toroman break out into a smile on many an occasion. But the attempt at mirth and jocularity left me with a wide grin. Will wonders never cease? Rajko Toroman feeling sentimental and joking, I teased.

He shrugged that famous shrug of his while still smiling. The time away following Smart Gilas’ failure to win the FIBA Asia Championships at Wuhan had nursed him back to the pink of health. It wasn’t only him. His players needed to recover from the disappointment.

“You see the players on how they have made a big impact in the PBA?” he said like a proud father. “We can build a new Gilas. Fix the problems of the old and make it better.”

He went on for another five minutes rattling off names of collegiate players who could replace those who had moved up. He had a few ideas and a few plans.

I asked him how long he was staying in Manila and he said until Sunday. “But I can extend it depending on what happens.”

He said that he was going to get an offer from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas that evening. “What if it’s a consultant position,” I pressed further.

“No. I am a coach. Not a consultant.”

I asked if he considered working for a local club – say Powerade of which feted him a dinner to welcome his two former wards in JV Casio and Lassiter. “No. It was nice of them to offer dinner so I can have a reunion with JV (Casio) and Marcio (Lassiter). But I work for the SBP and Smart Gilas.”

What if it doesn’t work out? “I can always find a job in Europe or Asia,” he answered.

We talked a little more and I asked him if we could meet the following evening. “Sure. In my apartment in Eastwood,” he said.

Only we never got to meet. The offer never came and he opted not to meet up.

In the early days of Smart Gilas when I used to run around with the team, he used to borrow my laptop to check on the sports scene in Serbia and Europe.

When he watched basketball games in the San Juan Arena, he would always drop by (former La Salle Green Archer) Marko Batricevic’s Balkan Express restaurant nearby. “I need my slice of Serbia,” he once told me as we munched on some terrific food at Batricevic’s restaurant.

When Vlade Divac arrived in Manila for the first NBA Asia Challenge, he met up with his former player (on the last unified Yugoslavian national team) to catch up.

When compatriot Milan Vucicevic joined Smart Gilas for the 2010 FIBA Asia Champions Challenge Cup, he had another person with whom he could converse in his native tongue.

Yet as homesick as he was, he came to love his “adopted” country. He became a familiar sight at many a local sports event. When he wasn’t attending to trainings or practices of Smart Gilas, when there wasn’t a basketball game on television or played in any of the multitude of arenas in Metro Manila, he would walk around the malls. He was never one to turn away a person who asked for a photograph or an autograph. When he was back in Serbia, aside from going online to check out his players who had been scattered across the PBA landscape, he would search on news about the Philippines.

I never got to meet up with Toroman that Saturday. I tried to get through to Toroman but he said that he couldn’t make it. Suddenly, I had a feeling that the rumors about the next generation of Smart Gilas going on in another direction were all true.

I asked him that Friday evening if things were all right between him and SBP management. He said that he has been treated very well and he had only good words for all.

During the post-match interview with TNT’s Chot Reyes inside the pressroom at the Araneta Coliseum, one of the sports scribes asked the coach if he was going to be handling Smart Gilas. Reyes said that his only focus was the next PBA conference.

I knew right there that the Rajko Toroman era had really come to an end.

Sports like everything else in life is in a constant state of flux. But lost within the politics, the highs and lows, the backstabbing, and the tears of joy and pain is where the Philippines stands in the international basketball scene.

The country has gained a measure of respect and that is something that can never be taken away. And so is Rajko Toroman’s part in it.

Back in the day with Smart Gilas dreaming big before the wolves came out.

At the half of Game 4 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals, I made my way towards Rajko Toroman who was seated at the patron section. We were supposed to meet up earlier but I arrived late because an office meeting ended late. He was seated next to football coach Zoran Dordevic and he stood up and made his way towards me when I approached. We shared a hug and a clasp of hands. And chatted for about 20 minutes before I let him go to enjoy the game. But before I did, I thanked him for coaching Smart Gilas and making the national team a better one. He thanked me in return and said that he wished that I could have been there for all the trips of Smart Gilas to cover the team. I looked forward to the meeting the following day. Only it never happened. At least I got to thank him.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A special moment for Talk ‘N Text

A special moment for Talk ‘N Text
by rick olivares pics by brosi gonzales and me

No excuses. No talk. Just great basketball and some excellent counter moves by the two different coaching staffs.

Talk ‘n Text responded to their Game Four loss to Powerade by coming out like gangbusters. They pressured the Tigers at every possession. They blocked Gary David’s first shot. They raided the passing lanes and pounded the ball inside to Kelly Williams at every opportunity.

When the Tigers shut down the lane, TNT gave them a dose of their own medicine when Larry Fonacier hit a pair of triples and three free throws.

After Fonacier’s string of nine straight points, TNT’s lead was at 46-18. The Tigers came back when Sean Anthony and Rommel Adducul began to go inside.

However, Powerade’s fusillade from the outside can be contagious as TNT in one stretch began to bombard from the outside to no avail. In the meantime, Marcio Lassiter strung up eight of Powerade’s next 10 points to bring the lead down to 12, 70-58.

TNT’s head coach Chot Reyes called for time to remind them to take it to the rack. Ali Peek and Ranidel de Ocampo went back to work and without Doug Kramer’s usual production in the lane to counteract TNT’s attack, the lead ballooned up to 24, 82-58.

Powerade’s usual high volume of accurate outside shots eventually brought them back. After David’s trey at the two-minute mark, the deficit was down to nine, 103-94. But TNT withstood David’s onslaught and matched every Powerade shot with one of their own while Ryan Reyes destroyed Powerade on defense to win 110-101.

The Tropang Texters, denied a grand slam last year, instead found themselves as the first repeat All-Filipino champions in 27 years. In a conversation with Reyes, he admitted that he didn’t think that they could repeat when the injuries started piling up culminating in the attempted slay try on Peek. It was especially sweet for Reyes as he was graduating from Ateneo in 1985 at the time when the Great Taste Coffeemakers won the last back-to-back titles. Reyes made the Mythical Five Selection that year in the UAAP alongside UE’s Jerry Codinera and Allan Caidic, FEU’s Glenn Capacio and UST’s Pido Jarencio. “Ako lang ang hindi nag-PBA sa batch na yan,” said Reyes.

Defending an All-Filipino crown took 27 years in the making so actually mas matagal pa sa last grand slam. And this makes it a lot sweeter. I believe that championships are made of special moments. And nothing more special than the near tragedy of Ali Peek. There we were the entire team gathered around Ali Peek’s bed and Kelly (Williams) said, ‘Let’s offer a prayer and let’s pray together as a team.’ And there we were the entire team gathered around a fallen comrade offering a prayer. At that point, it was a big step where the bond between individuals got cemented. Even when everyone got injured we found ways to win in the elimination round.”

“The second moment was when we were down 3-1 to Petron when even I was thinking that maybe this wasn’t for us. But they players wouldn’t allow it. When we did make it back I felt that was a sure sign. My last thought to the players, when I looked at Ali (when he was shot), I was thinking I wasn’t going to see this same batch of guys together again. To come in the verge of another championship all we talked about was, ‘Let’s not waste this opportunity because we will never know when we will be in this position again. That was the mindset that we took heading into this finals.”

Aside from the Ali Peek shooting and the numerous injuries Talk ‘N Text suffered along the way, the Tropang Texters had to deal with Smart Gilas’ debilitating loss in Wuhan, China. “Kelly, Ranidel, and Jimmy were devastated by our loss there and that was one reason why we had to give them time off – for their minds to heal. That’s what makes this win even more special because of all our spectacular lows. At the end of the road it truly made for a memorable conference.”

The PBA Press Corps as the Finals MVP selected Fonacier. A decision lauded by Reyes. “What a perfect choice!” exclaimed the eight-time PBA winner. In this All-Filipino we had 21 players in uniform because of all our injuries. He (Fonacier) was the only one who played in every game (including last season). It says a lot about one’s presence.”

Above: Chot Reyes post-game. Take note of the bottle of Gatorade. Below: Larry Fonacier has won five PBA titles (one with Red Bull, one with Alaska, and three with Talk 'N Text). Maybe he's also saying that Ateneo will win five straight too in the UAAP! 

Bye, Maan Panganiban. Thanks for being a good friend.

At the PBA Season Awards event at Gateway with Maan and the crew.

Several years ago, I was covering a game by the Ateneo Women’s Volleyball Team at Blue Eagle Gym when this girl went up to me and tapped me on my shoulder. She introduced herself as Maan Panganiban and she asked me if she could also write about the UP Women’s Team. I did recognize her as a UP volleyball player and I said, I would if I had time. I eventually did but not too often as I would like because my work oft had me cover other assignments.

We became friends after that. She would oft come over to say hello or sit beside me during games or special events. During Fr. Martin’s Cup semis, we sat beside one another in the stands talking about hoops even as Ateneo battled National U in a thrilling game in which the Bulldogs won. She was polite in her cheers unlike some other boors in the audience.

When she made TV5, she came over to the pressroom, tapped me on my shoulder, and told me about the news. We celebrated that by sharing menudo and rice (the packed food given to us in the pressroom). When she was unsure of something regarding a team or a player, she would ask me. When she needed tips on the Azkals or Smart Gilas, she would ask. One time, she even went to the house to interview me about the football national team (see the picture below). When I was writing my story about Ray Parks, she was the one who served as a conduit for me and Ray (the story appeared in Rebound).

I cannot say that we were best friends or even barkada. I can’t even claim to know everything and everything about her. But we were friends. Our profession oft brought us in close contact and I tried my best to help her around sporting events and teams.

During the FIBA Asia Champions Challenge Cup, she asked if I could help her get an interview with the Lebanese team (I had become friends with them during a previous tournament). After the championship (where Lebanon won over Iran), as I made my way out of Philsports, she tapped me on my shoulder and said, “Sir Rick, for you.” It was a small saucer-sized cake.

“What’s this for?” I asked.

“That’s for helping me out and being a friend.”

A few weeks ago when I learned of her illness, I texted her and asked her how she was doing. She said she was fine and she said there I was after all this time, still looking out for her.

During the college basketball awards last Saturday, I asked Ray how she was doing and he said she was fine.

This morning, while bedridden with a migraine that has left me weak since Saturday, I spoke with Coach Eric Altamirano who broke the news to me that Maan had passed away. It made me feel worse.

I cannot claim to be the best of friends or even barkada. But we were good friends. Thanks, Maan! Nice knowing ya. If I feel a tap on my shoulder I’ll know you’re there.

Above: With Maan Panganiban at the the UFL launch at Shangri-La. There she was tapping my shoulder and we joked about it. Below: At home being interviewed by Maan and the TV5 crew about the Azkals. 

On the suspension of Matthew Hartmann

Here is the letter sent by the Philippine Football Federation to Loyola FC regarding the indefinite suspension of Matthew Hartmann. I agree that he should be suspended for leaving the national team but an indefinite suspension? Does the punishment fit the "crime"? Is this of Hammam-esque proportions (and to think they are not pursuing the case against the former deposed president -- who is of poor health at the moment -- who is accused of misusing funds)? Now I heard from Hartmann that there is more than meets the eye in his leaving Jakarta. My beef with this is one, Hartmann's side was not heard, and two, what is the "crime" here? It's not even stated on the memo what he did wrong. If he was asked to write a letter then was that sufficient? Was due process followed? As it is, this suspension should have been served before the start of the league so Loyola should have gotten a replacement. As it is, they have to wait for the March transfer window before they can do so. Someone said that Loyola knew that Hartmann was going to be suspended and they should have gotten another player. Not exactly correct. Suspended yes. Indefinitely suspended, no. And like it is easy to get players. Again, I believe that regardless of the circumstances surrounding his leaving the national team, Hartmann should be suspended. But indefinitely? Maybe from the national team but not his club? You are cutting him from his livelihood. You want more proof? Look at the French National Team and the debacle in South Africa. In spite of the suspensions and removals from national team duty, Nicholas Anelka, Patrice Evra, Thierry Henry and all those involved in the mutiny are all still playing club football. And where is it written that abandonment of the national squad merits this and that kind of punishment. The decision is hardly just. So go figure.

Ateneo defeats La Salle 1-0, FEU revs up and frustration mounts at State U

Ateneo defeats La Salle 1-0, FEU revs up and frustration mounts at State U
by rick olivares

The Ateneo Blue Booters beat their La Salle counterparts with a workman-like 1-0 win at the Ateneo High School Field last Sunday morning.

After Ateneo rookie Mikko Mabanag had his volley blocked by a La Salle defender, the ball went straight back to him. Instead of reloading on the shot, he found forward Anton Amistoso unmarked by the defense near the left post. La Salle keeper Patrick Deyto rushed out to obscure Amistoso’s line of sight but the blue booter sent the ball to the far post for the goal.

La Salle had its chances to score in the first half particularly when sophomore forward Al Bustamante’s shot hit the crossbar but Ateneo showed more energy and determination. The home side, which had not beaten the green and white in three years, was relentless in their hustle and pressure defense. Their crosses were zinging right through La Salle’s defense and the lack of attackers coming in prevented Ateneo from doubling their lead.

Yu Murayama was at goal for the first time this season (after Joel Faustino minded the net in the past three games) when Ateneo head coach JP Merida placed him there following a slight injury. Merida wanted to keep Murayama in the game and he slotted Faustino in as a field player. Murayama previously was the backup to RS Mantos several years ago but came back this year as a field player.

It was a sorry loss for La Salle which had strung up four consecutive draws. Expectations were high after the Green Archers won last October’s University Games in Roxas City but the team has lost its determination and spunk.

In the second game of the Sunday triple-header, FEU leapfrogged up the standings with its 4-0 rout of hapless UE. The freshman and sophomore laden Tamaraws were more precise in their buildups and their passing that had the Red Warriors reeling.

Despite not having a win across their name in the standings, the Red Warriors offered one of the stingiest defenses with veteran goalkeeper Robert Martos tallying three clean sheets. However, in the 13th minute of the match, UE overcommitted their defense to the right side of the pitch and a cross by a Tamaraw found midfielder Saekyoul Lee alone and unmarked on dangerous ground. Martos never had a chance as Lee sent him diving the wrong way for FEU’s first goal.

Sophomore striker Jon Melliza, who led his team in scoring last year and scored a hat trick in their last outing against Ateneo scored a brace this time (27, 87). Lester Madia added to the tally with an 85th minute goal.

In the main game of the day, UST and UP, which both faced off in last year’s finals, played to a drama-filled scoreless draw in a rain and mud-soaked game. But it was UST that dominated the game with better build-ups from the back and more scoring chances. The Fighting Maroons got their opportunities in their counter-attacks. Ojay Clarino, in his final playing year for UST was industrious in his game. He raided UP’s midfield by stripping them of the ball on their attacks and oft outraced a defender or two on offense.

UP threatened late in the game when Michael Simms had a pair of decent chances to score from the left wing but instead, he fired straight every time out to UST Mon Borigas.

Right before the game started, the rain fell turning the pitch into a muddy one. With memories of the mire of the Roxas City Uni-Games that saw the Maroons punished by Dipolog Memorial Medical Center, UP was once more unable to get their finely tuned attack going. The stress of being unable to score as well as in defending their championship showed when several Maroons began to argue with one another much to the shock of the crowd.

UP head coach Anto Gonzales conceded that the team not coming together in time for the UAAP season did not help their chemistry. The team was split with some playing in the UFL and while striker Jinggoy Valmayor (who has been scoreless this season) and Raymark Fernandez spent time with the national team.

“It’s a matter of everyone committing themselves to what we are doing now,” said Gonzales. “When we didn’t have our UFL and national team players, the others picked up their game and played well in the Uni-Games and the pre-season. I think that we are close to working it out. It has been frustrating not winning more games.”

UP keeper Ty Caballes dives for the ball before UST's Shirmar Felongco (in white and behind UP's Raymark Fernandez) could fire away.

Sorry I have been unable to watch Juniors and Women's football. I can do only so much. But with regards to the Ateneo Women's Football Team is -- why run a flat back four when we are slow? After their goal why not adjust and put a sweeper? They killed us with through balls and we were slow to react.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bleachers' Brew #296 Those rampaging Stallions & other UFL stories

This appears in the Monday January 30, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.

Those rampaging Stallions & other UFL stories
by rick olivares

It’s not Zen. It’s total football.

After Phil Younghusband pounced on a defensive mistake to put Loyola ahead 1-nil in only the 10th minute, Dr. Eu Hyung Pe, head coach of Stallion, held his hand up high to his defenders and said, “It’s okay. Make that your last mistake.”

The Korean coach, who also oversees Central Philippine University’s football program, knew that his side clearly had the game’s first decent chances. Fine-tuning the finishing was all the had to do. “We knew the goals were going to come.”

If you saw Stallion during the Smart Club championship or the UFL Cup, you would know that they were damn good. Theirs was an interesting mix of players from Barotac Nuevo and the Korean players based in CPU in Jaro, Iloilo. Under Pe with the managing of Ernie Nierras, the coaching staff has placed strong emphasis on accurate passing, team play, and a commitment to defense. The sum is total football. But in their words, they call it “Koringgo (Korean-Ilonggo) football.”

It’s a potent brew all right and look who they have claimed as victims – Navy 6-0, Air Force 4-1, and now, the star-studded Loyola 4-1. And “star-studded” is right. Stallion thought that the Sparks’ stars were slow if not lazy to get back on defense. “They do not run to meet the ball,” shared Pe. “They get frustrated and they show it. They let it affect their teammates.”

“We don’t care who scores,” underscored team manager JR Robles. Four different Stallion players scored –Antonio Albor, Ruben Doctora, Byeong Jun Yoon, and Joo Young Lee. In addition to the four, Jomar Lestingio and Boo Bae Park (who once played in Korea’s K-League) have also added to Stallion’s league leading goal total of 14. “All we want is the win and to win as a team.”

Added Pe: “Everyone plays a role. One stop on defense. One good pass in the midfield. One cross to look for a teammate. One goal.”

Loyola was somewhat able to stop the first attack but the second wave was even more potent. Stallion quickly overhauled the early deficit and they went into the half up by the score of 2-1. The second half began the same way the first 45 minutes did – with the Sparks looking good with the one-two passing between the Younghusband brothers and occasionally Mark Hartmann. But that was it. The finishing was not there as Stallion crowded the defense while keeper Wilson Muñoz stopped those shots directed at him.

Furthermore, the Sparks made a tactical mistake by leaving midfielder Jake Morallo on the bench too long. He held in reserve as a momentum breaker because the Sparks knew they were in for a fight. When Morallo, who made a huge impact in the wins of Loyola against Green Archers and Army, came in the 59th minute, he provided some creativity to their attack but the ball wasn’t getting into the attacking third.

Stallion tacked on a couple more goals that should make any highlight reel (they also had two other goals disallowed because a player was called for an offside violation).

Quite a few fans thought it looked bad for Loyola that their national players displayed a haughty attitude – calling for the substitution of some players with the match going on, losing their cool when dispossessed, and not looking like a team at all. When the match looked to degenerate into a rough or dirty one, Dr. Pe stood up and waved his hand once more. Filbert Alquiros of Stallion team sponsor Gilligan’s said to his players, “If you do that again we will pull you out of the game.” It does say a lot that during the fracas where Phil Younghusband was shown a red card, all the Stallion players on the field converged in the area while the Sparks were scattered.

After the match, Nierras did not mince his words: “I told them in the post-game interview that we want to be on those UFL commercials they produce. The league is more than the poster boys of the national team. This is the UFL not the Azkals.”

Incidentally, that was warning against the rest of the teams. It’s not zen or any fancy schmancy game. They play a simple 4-4-2 with a predilection for total football. In case you have missed the point, Stallion is for real.

- 0 -

If Stallion is looking to even up matters with teams that dealt them previous loses, the game I’d pay to watch is seeing this Iloilo-based club go up against Pachanga.

Pachanga, currently playing in Division Two with a 3-0 record, beat Stallion during the Smart Club Championship and the recent UFL Cup. A Pachanga-Stallion match would feature the two best midfields in local club football today. They play similar styles. This would also be a derby in every sense of the word because most of the Pachanga players are from Bacolod. And when it comes to Philippine football rivalries, aside from Barotac Nuevo vs. Santa Barbara, the derby between Bacolod and Iloilo is white hot. The players on both clubs figured mightily in last year’s Suzuki Under-23 National Championship with the Negros team taking home the trophy.

- 0 -

Loyola was dealt a bad hand prior to the match with the suspension of midfielder Matthew Hartmann. According to Loyola, the suspension was handed down the day before the match against Stallion. And there was no hearing whatsoever. No indication on why he was being suspended. If it was the incident where Hartmann left the national team in the middle of its SEA Games campaign, then it wasn’t clear. Hartmann’s side was not heard at all. Furthermore, that incident was over a month ago and if the Loyola player were to be suspended it should have been decided before the league began because now the Sparks are a man down.

- 0 -

The 2-2 draw of Air Force and Army has to feel somewhat like a loss for the beleaguered league champions. The airmen were up 2-0 when the physical game of Army took out Chieffy Caligdong from the game. Caligdong left the match and was brought for some tests on his knee (as of this moment it is hoped that he did not suffer an ACL tear). Without their engine in the midfield, Air Force’s game went south. They conceded a late goal that saw Army pull abreast. The draw gave Air Force a point that pulled them momentarily out of the cellar that they shared with the winless Navy, Green Archers United and Pasargad. Army stayed in the middle of pack.

- 0 -

Speaking of dream matches, I was discussing with noted football anchor Bob Guerrero about the top 11 African players currently playing their trade in the UFL. It would be fun to see them go up against the national team in a friendly.

Here is our selection: Izzo El Habbib (Global) and Eric Dagroh (Kaya) at forward; Prince Mark Boley (Kaya), Oussey Diop (Pachanga), Alu Kigbu (Kaya), and Val Kama (Global) in midfield; Yves Ashime (Pachanga), Kross Ubiam (Pachanga), Angge Guisso (Global), and Dominic Mensah (Nomads) in the back; and Jerome Sylvain (Global) at goal.

Bench: Chris Ojamire and Anu Farah (both with Pachanga) and Alex Obiang (Global) at forward; Gabe Oloweyeye and Shapay Johnson (both with Green Archers United) as well as Ayi Aryee and Badz EL Habbib (Global) at midfield. Lawrence Ikeguwuruka (Loyola) at goal. Kama can also pay goal back up goalkeeper.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Powerade Tigers send the broom back into the closet.

Powerade Tigers send the broom back into the closet.
by rick olivares pics by nuki sabio

Put away the brooms, said the Powerade Tigers.

They sure found that endgame verve to stay Talk ‘N Text ascension at least by a couple more days. Or perhaps not at all. Powerade head coach Bo Perasol said they think of only one game. Like it’s just the first game. Except maybe they should repeat the process and think it’s Game Seven.

Talk about suspense. And that was what this game was all about. Talk ‘N Text fell into a hole and although they were able to tie the game twice just when you thought that was the moment they took over, the Tigers showed their moxie by responding with a run of their own.

But two errors in the last minute – one by JV Casio and the other by Sean Anthony – gave the Tropang Texters an opportunity to send the game into overtime. But they missed a couple of shots by an inch! I think Powerade’s defense in crunchtime wasn’t that great. TNT just didn’t make their shots. Has this series been all about offense?

The big difference in this match in my opinion was the play inside of the Tigers’ big men in Rommel Adducul, Doug Kramer, and Sean Anthony. Adducul muscled his way in for 10 points 6 rebounds, and had 3 blocks. He provided much needed relief for Doug Kramer and Sean Anthony. There was a 40-29 disparity in points inside in favor of Powerade. Ranidel de Ocampo, who had his way around Kramer and Anthony in Game 3 only netted three points and get this zero rebounds in 14 minutes (well he was in foul trouble but still).

The Tigers’ bench only scored 15 points but they made their mark on defense by holding off TNT. It got to the point where the Tropa’s head coach Chot Reyes had to send in Rich Alvarez and Gilbert Lao for a little over three minutes each – a signal that the other bigs needed to step up. TNT outrebounded Powerade 57-44 but the Tigers shot a whole lot better 46.% to 38.6%. The missed free throws down the stretch by Ali Peek hurt TNT.

TNT’s interior has been porous. Powerade repeatedly attacked them off the dribble drive. I know Japeth Aguilar is not the rebounding stud he is supposed to be but maybe prepping him to shore up the D will help. I am also a firm believer in establishing the inside game right away. Because if that fails and the outside artillery does not find the range then you are in all sorts of trouble.

Interestingly, Powerade has shot more free throws in three of the four games. TNT only had more in Game 3.

For Powerade to extend this, they will need the bench to produce. Gary David, the Best Player of the Conference, played long minutes once more. But he shot better as he opted to drive a little more for the higher percentage baskets. That helped because it kept Fonacier, Jared Dillinger, and Ryan Reyes off balance. Their interior defense and flashes of zone defense forced TNT to shoot from the outside a little more.

If Powerade wins this, no question, the MVP is Gary David who in four matches has churned out an average of 30 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

If TNT closes it out on Sunday and Larry Fonacier scores over 10 points, he should and I mean should be named Finals MVP. He is averaging 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 3.0 assists.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Scoring droughts, hope & glory in UAAP football

Scoring droughts, hope & glory in UAAP football
by rick olivares with pics by brosi gonzales

Hope springs eternal in the UAAP football tournament… in spite of a drought of wins and goals.

For the La Salle Green Archers, they have four points accrued from four matches. That means four draws and no losses. They have no wins either. At 0-4-0, they are way off last season’s pace when they went 4-4-2, good for third place and 15 goals. So far this Season 74, they’ve scored two goals and conceded two. Heading into the toss up with UP, the Green Archers were at third place with three points. State U was at second with five points with one win and two draws. The Fighting Maroons have also had problems with their finishing and are frightfully short of the previous year’s pace where they finished the elimination round with 28 points en route to another title.

Both sides had their opportunities to score but their defense and some terrific goal keeping has held.

At one point, DLSU head coach Hans Smit whispered a short prayer to his brother Eduard who passed away after battling a long illness. “Help me up there, brother,” he told himself. Unfortunately, his strike force of Don Rabaya and King Yuhico were unable to produce anything.

Smit raised his arms in utter frustration. “Week after week its like this,” he said in a disappointed tone. “They have chances but they keep making the same mistakes. When they have to pass they shoot. When they have to shoot they pass. When the shot is there the finish is bad. And yet, they keep smiling all throughout. But the good thing is we are not too far away from the leaders. One good win could change things for us.”

For UP, they still retain many of the mainstays who have led them to two championships in three years. Last year’s sensation, Jinggoy Valmayor hasn’t scored at all. Confidence should be at an all-time high because aside from Valmayor, Raymark Fernandez has been chosen to play with the national team. Many of their players were on the NCR Under-23 that made the semifinals of the Suzuki Cup last summer. Many play in the United Football League.

“Masama laro,” said former team captain Stephen Permanes who is now a spectator. “Wala pang laro na lahat maganda yung linaro. Kulang sa chemistry. Kaya naman. Kaya pa.”

The one win thus far has been against the disappointing Ateneo Blue Eagles who have yet to find succor since the 2008 season, the last time they made the finals. Since then, it has been nothing but heartbreak, heartache, and issues. Although they say that they are playing better (they felt that the previous system and atmosphere under their former head coach was restrictive and affected their play). This year… well, what are the excuses? It seems that when a team needs to win, they get it at the expense of the boys in blue who are feeling that in every sense of the word. UP’s only two goals of the tournament (in four matches have come at Ateneo’s expense). UST also beat them by the same score. They did win against UE when Mikko Mabang scored on a penalty. Incidentally, that was the only goal UE has conceded.

Things have not worked out for the boys in blue who were excited about the return of a few of the veterans who opted not to suit up last year. But so far, the pre-season promise has given way to even more of the same frustration. With starting goalkeeper Rufino Mantos suspended for some fracas with a referee during the match against UP, the incident has cast a pall on the team. Against a young and talented FEU eleven, none of the veteran smarts saved them. With a change in tactics for the match, the team suffered from the lack of ball distribution coming from the middle. The chances were few and so far in between.

Regarding chances, Tamaraws striker Jon Melliza who like Valmayor and Rabaya, has not had many opportunities of his own. Perhaps defenses are now keyed to him. But he ended his scoring drought by tacking on a hat trick including one off a spectacular free kick. Although Ateneo pulled one goal back, the loss saw them plummet down to the bottom of the standings.

The Tams haven’t been healthy. Many of their players have been playing sick or injured. There was so much talk about the young squad prior to the start of the season with players moving up from their much ballyhooed juniors program. The talent and skill is there. Easily, they are the most fun to watch in the manner of moving the ball upfield. The finishing, like it has for UP and La Salle, has been wanting. “Sana tuloy tuloy na ‘to,” smiled a relieved Melliza after the match.

The UST Growling Tigers are atop the league standings with eight points from two wins and two draws. They have been denied the last two seasons a title first by FEU and then by UP. They still have some of their talented core left with some good recruits. But the frustration for head coach Marjo Allado is that the veterans are the ones making mistakes they should no longer be making. “Matatagal na kayo naglalaro pero ganyan pa rin yung mali niyo,” bellowed the coach who also led UST to a title as a player.

Like every other team in the league, they are so far from last year’s pace where they finished second in the eliminations with 20 points and 20 goals. After four matches, they have only scored four times. Forward Ojay Clarino was bemused by the goal synchronicity. He has no answers for his team’s ability to collect the three full points after a scoreless draw with UE.

The UE Red Warriors still retain many of the young studs of its promising teams of the past few years. But its scoring heroes -- the Arboleda brothers and Gringo Bravo – have also been unable to finish. New coaches Gerald and Jerome Orcullo who both starred for San Beda in the NCAA have been frustrated with the decision making of their players. “Mix ng mga bata at veterans,” said Gerald who is also playing with Philippine Navy in the UFL. “Bago rin yung sistema namin pero hirap sila sa pagtatapos. Buti na lang maganda yung depensa namin.”

“May pag-asa pa naman,” he said.

I wasn’t so sure he sounded convincing.

Some blame the field conditions. Some think the defenses have been good. But every one is confident that they can come around and start scoring goals by the start of the second round. At least hope springs eternal in frustrating season for UAAP football. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The cover to the championship issue of Rebound magazine

Here's the cover to the next issue of Rebound magazine. Yes, it is our delayed Championship edition (in stores next week). I love what we do with this magazine. I hope you do too! My colleagues in Rebound include Kenneth Ti, Mike Yu, Chris Soler, Sid Ventura, Bob Guerrero, Raddy Mabasa, Diana Moraleda, Paul Ryan Tan, and Tessa Jazmines.

What I chipped in for this issue -- A Knight's Crusade (Letran), The Blue Eagles reign supreme in the 16th UniGames, The Man in the Middle and my regular column From the Parking Lot titled Should Philippine college basketball adopt some US NCAA rules?

For some Ateneo Blue Eagles news, the team has started to practice with some players trying out for the team. Chris Newsome will be playing with the squad in the FilOil Premier Cup. The Semerad brothers have joined practices since Monday. And well, there are others.