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.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Faith Academy wins MMBL Division 2 title over Xavier

Faith Academy wins MMBL Division 2 title over Xavier
by rick olivares

January 19, 2013
San Beda College Gym A
Estimated crowd attendance: 100

Neil De Cleene hauled down the defensive rebound, whirled and fired a long shot that would have made the Atlanta Falcons quarterback Joe Flacco proud. De Cleene’s long throw clanged off the back rim before deciding to go out as the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter of the Division Two championship match between Faith Academy and Xavier School Team B for an 68-all deadlock.

The Faith Academy Vanguard forward pursed his lips and shook his head. “Almost,” he blurted out.

For two quarters, the Vanguards held off the Stallions, 28-18 at the end of the first period, and 47-41 to close out the half. Now Xavier was on the verge of taking the lead with the Vanguards’ starting backcourt of Nick Dalafu and Todd Hardemann Jr. saddled with four fouls each.

The two had for most of Faith Academy’s SeaOil Metro Manila Basketball League campaign led the team in scoring. But the other starters were not exactly slouches.

Lanky forward-center Luka Van Opstal stole the ball of Xavier point guard Aldrich Ang then laid the ball in. In was an unlikely sight, a reed-thin 6’3” forward poking the ball away and dashing off for an unchallenged lay-up.

In his best game of the tournament, Van Opstal scored 11 points on top of literally hauling down 14 rebounds with five coming off the offensive glass. When Van Opstal fouled out with 4:43 left on the game clock, Faith was still up by two, 72-70. But two Ian Lipio free throws notched the count for what would be the fourth and last time.

“We were concerned about how we would hold up,” said Vanguards’ head coach Robby Nichols after the match. “Luka was doing so well and our other guys were in foul trouble. They sat for a while and when they came back their rhythm was off. But Luka, Neil De Cleene and Mark Lovatt saved this game for us.”

With Hardemann struggling with his game (he came in an immediately promptly turned over the ball twice in succession), Lovatt had an acrobatic put back off the former’s missed jumper for a 78-75 lead. Xavier had two chances to come within a point or tie it altogether with a trey as Faith Academy failed to grab the defensive rebound. On Xavier’s third attempt –a missed drive by shooting guard Tyler Tio, Lovatt finally came up with the rebound to Nichols’ relief. “Take care of the ball,” he hollered.

Faith and Xavier had each confounded one another on defense in the final quarter. The Vanguards were mostly unable to break the 2-3 zone of Xavier while Stallions suddenly found Faith Academy’s 1-3-1 defense closing out their wing options.

The truth was, without any big man to draw out or attract a double team, when there was no open shot for Xavier, they were done for.

On the opposite end, an opportunity presented itself when Hardemann found an open De Cleene who was at the right side of the three-point arc. De Cleene let fly and boom, 81-75, Faith Academy with 41 seconds left.

Tio scored on a lay-up, his last bucket that gave him a game high 35 points, but he fouled out while trying to stop Hardemann from racing towards the basket. Todd Jr. or tacked on one while De Cleene added another with 15 seconds left for the 83-79 win. Hardemann led Faith Academy with 21 points while De Cleene and van Opstal scored 18 and 11 respectively. Aside from Tio, the only other Stallion in double figures was Rendel Lee (heir to Chris Tiu's #17) who tallied 25 markers.

The Division Two championship of the 30th SeaOil MMBL, was Faith Academy’s second in three years. They won it two years ago with Hardemann, and Lovatt both sophomores. The title is Nichols’ first as head coach (he was an assistant during their title run two years ago).

“It’s a proud moment for our team,” explained Nichols who also exhorted the Vanguards’ supporters to cheer throughout the game. “We could have lost right there when we got into foul trouble. But we hung together and hit some pretty tough shots.”

How will the Faith Academy vanguards celebrate? “A hearty lunch and some rest,” said team assistant Jimmy Aquino.


“Yeah,” laughed Aquino. “We’re tired. And we’ve got the Hardemann Cup next week where teams like Brent, Hope Christian High School, and many others are participating.”

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