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.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Five defensive gems Ateneo pulled on La Salle

Five defensive gems Ateneo pulled on La Salle
by rick olivares pics by brosi gonzales

At the height of the first three-peat wave of the Chicago Bulls during the early 1990s, Boston Celtics great Bill Russell was asked of the feat of the team from the Windy City.

“Not much,” he succinctly answered. It wasn’t meant as a sign of disrespect but merely because Russell’s Celtics won eight straight titles and 11 of 13 championships available during his career.

After La Salle and NU beat Ateneo during the summer tournaments, many said that the Blue Eagles were on the verge being unseated and were clearly not their dominant self (somehow they conveniently forget that in nine games in 10 days, Ateneo picked up the Fr. Martin’s Cup after losing the FilOil Premier Cup).

When people asked me during the summer what I made of the losses, I replied, “Not much.”

The only thing we have in common with those guys in green from Boston is that we only make room for NCAA and UAAP banners in the rafters of the venerable Blue Eagle Gym. Everything else can go hang elsewhere.

And that leads to the first Ateneo-La Salle encounter for Season 75. When I arrived at the Mall of Asia Arena, several people (my colleague and batchmate Philip Sison is one of them) asked me how I would call the game. I thought that LA Revilla will give us some trouble but we will take away their strengths and win by 10 or more.

We sure did for a 71-61 victory – there’s your double-digit margin -- and here’s why.

We stopped their bigs.
A staple of their dribble drive offense is having LA Revilla or Jeron Teng drive from either wing. Both Revilla and Teng have quick first steps. If they beat their man and help arrives, they shovel it to the middle to Norbert Torres or Yutien Andrada who slides in from the weak side for a lay-up. Andrada has especially made a living off this.

The best way to counter this is either deny the penetration or if unable to, then for someone to rotate over to the cutter for the steal. The Green Archers were only able to get (by my count) two points off this and this was in the fourth quarter.

Take a look at the production of La Salle’s frontcourt players.

Papot Paredes and Ponso Gotladera played nine minutes and combined for zero points and three rebounds.

In contrast, Blue Eagle center Greg Slaughter who averaged 13.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in his first three matches, scored 20 points but hauled down only seven boards. There’s a trade off you definitely like if you root for the blue and white.

We took away the confidence of Almond Vosotros.
I always thought that Almond Vosotros was one of DLSU’s most fearless players. He’s a sparkplug who tries to help his side by either scoring or by his hustle plays. Being the primary back up for LA Revilla, his role is crucial because Mark Tallo is still feeling his way around.

After a poor opener where he didn’t score a point, the points guard came alive in La Salle’s next two games where scored 5 and 8 points respectively.

As soon as Vosotros entered the court with under two to play in the first quarter, Kiefer Ravena promptly stole the ball from him for a fastbreak layup. Soon after, he had his layup blocked. Although Vosotros had two steals of his own, he didn’t score a point. Tallo and Thomas Torres made forgettable cameos where in five minutes of play both committed one turnover each but contributed nothing more.

And that forced La Salle to play Revilla for 32 long minutes.

Revilla isn’t the only Green Archer starter to play that many minutes. Teng and Torres did as well.

Only two Blue Eagles played over 30 minutes – Slaughter and Ravena.

Well, aside from foul trouble, the Blue Eagles’ bench mob played well too. They outscored La Salle 15-13 and every single player contributed something to the collective effort be it a point, rebound, assist, steal, block (the Green Archers fielded three players who were not able to contribute anything to the stat sheet – Thomas Torres, Gotladera, and Tallo).

We forced a five-second inbound violation on Jeron Teng.
With 44 seconds left to play and the score at 67-61 for Ateneo, Jeron Teng tried to inbound the ball from their side of the court.  Kiefer Ravena, who had picked him up later in the match, sagged off while looking where the receiver would come. Luigi dela Paz was covered by Juami Tiongson (who for the first time had more turnovers than assists 3-1) while Tonino Gonzaga closely guarded Revilla. Both dela Paz and Revilla were unable to shake off their defenders and Ravena stepped back a bit to help out. Just before Teng could throw it in, Ravena jumped back out forcing the La Salle rookie to keep the ball five-seconds too long. Referee’s whistle. Five second-inbound violation.

Ateneo had its crucial stop. In fact, in the fourth period, the Blue Eagles forced La Salle into seven turnovers while scoring six points off them.

We adjusted well to what La Salle was trying to do.
With their dribble drive offense stopped, La Salle resorted to a familiar tactic – staggered screens to free up a shooter. Heading into this match, La Salle was the worst from beyond the arc. In an effort to control the lane, Ateneo somewhat (and inadvertently) conceded the outside and La Salle hoisted up their biggest number of three-point attempts so far with 18 (and they nailed four).

At the start of the game, the Blue Eagles would weave their way above the screens. A La Salle switch later in the game saw Ateneo once more adjusting by fighting under the picks to prevent those pick and rolls.

We saw Tonino Gonzaga put the late clamps on LA Revilla.
Remember that key moment when Rich Alvarez guarded La Salle’s nigh unstoppable Mike Cortez in the 2002 Finals? That was unexpected. Ditto when Emman Monfort stopped that scoring machine known as RR Garcia in consecutive UAAP finals. You can add Tonino Gonzaga to that honor roll with his late effort against the supremely talented LA Revilla.

It is no secret that Gonzaga has thrived since being inserted in the starting five against NU. The graduating swingman admits that he was sort of looking for his shot in the first few games but he had a realization that he would be able to help his side more if he committed to defense.

He picked up some early foul trouble trying to stop the tank that is Jeron Teng. Playing a little more smartly, when he returned to action, he stayed in Revilla’s face. The ace La Salle guard didn’t score a point after the 7:43 mark of the fourth quarter. Even worse, Revilla turned the ball over thrice in the game’s final minutes.

Zags didn’t score a single point but he pulled down seven boards including a huge offensive carom with 1:50 left that allowed Ateneo to chew off more precious seconds in the game clock.

The game looked to be headed for a blowout but a series of unforced errors saw La Salle score some easy baskets that got them back in the game. When they did take a lead, Ateneo re-took the lead on the next possession. There were only two lead changes and that was that. A masterful response to the challenge of an old foe. It’s one game and there’s still a long way to go.

Four down and 10 to play.


Check out the homepage of my blog for more Ateneo Blue Eagles stuff on my personal Drive for Five analysis series. I also work on material for other teams.


  1. Consistency in performance from tip off to the last buzzer will bring us the 5th Championship. The boys are really playing very well, their discipline and right attitude will bring them more success. Keep on flying Blue Eagles!

  2. Keep it up Blue Eagles ! hope and pray that we can still continue the Ateneo Dynasty ! =))

  3. I enjoy your analyses, Rick. I do agree with Mike Blanco that consistency in performance will get the championship. On paper, the Blue Eagles are unbeatable. But when they relax mentally, then the other side quickly claws its way back. Witness the UST game, and this latest one against La Salle. I do not care what anyone says about boring games but when Ateneo gets ahead by more than 10 points, it should keep its focus to at least maintain that lead. No one is asking for a blow-out, for them to pad that lead (although cushions are great when the batteries start to fade). But we cannot afford 15+ point leads that get wiped out, giving us a good scare. Or worse, letting the other side take the game as UST did. The other side will make adjustments, depending on how the Blue Eagles are playing. That is not doubted. But Coach Norman is just too good not to see where things are going and to re-tool the game of the Blue Eagles as well. The men have to execute the adjustments well. We also want to see them hustle for every offensive or defensive board, and not to just stand by and watch the ball when the lead is comfortable. We want to see them take the higher percentage penetration drive rather than to resort to three pointers, especially when the other side starts to chew at the lead. I do not know whether this current team has the legs for the Emman-Kirk-Jai fastbreak game that just leaves the other side behind, gasping to catch up but this was the kind of Blue Eagle game that made us unstoppable previously. This was a manifestation of the game-long mental focus that got us our championships. Even for a team with championship experience like ours, mental lapses (into panic?) are still punished very quickly. There are no more walkover teams and whipping boys. All the other teams are improving. Yes, even La Salle. Yes, even NU. The only problem with NU is when they fall back on their one-dimensional game centered on BRP, then they will certainly lose. The Blue Eagles have the deep-bench talent. The Blue Eagles have the best coach in college ball right now. They just have to keep their focus and, as Coach Norman says, play a 40-minute game. If they can do that for the next ten games, then we can all confidently say "Gimme FIVE!"

  4. Steals, in the mold and form that Kiefer does now (I mean up front one-on-one, like ex-eagles Emman and Eric used to do too) are indeed momentum breakers and confidence dampeners for the other guards. You are right, Vosotros was never the same after that Keifer heist.

  5. Also if I may add my 2 cents --- if DLSU had a gunner like Ritualo before or current UST's Bautista, Teng, Fortuna, that game could've turned out the same as the one against UST. We were fortunate that they didn't have a reliable trey maker. Jed and LA come close to the roles can't expect them to do everything; Jed on Keifer and LA calling the plays. Marata doesn't count^^anymore and never did like he was expected to.

    You yourself said we've never had a solid shooter from way out and that had spelled losses for us specially when we needed to catch up in the past. ADU with Alvarez and Canada gave us problems (close games anyone? and the solitary loss last year) and their bigs matched up well with ours. Abdul presently is doing that to Slaughter. So we have to rethink the gameplan, not with NU in mind but UST. NU on paper and based on pre-season is supposed to do that to us also --- give us tougher time and competition but they are just too rigid, and still lack resiliency. DLSU has rivalry pride going for them. Not the materials though. UST has both --- materials and pride, not so much of rivalry but the motivation to prevent ADMU from breaking their 4 peat. Expect them to protect that.