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.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It’s not a W but the Hong Kong National Team will go home with good vibes

It’s not a W but HK will go home with good vibes.
by rick olivares

The buzzer sounded and the Philippines emerged 67-55 winners over Hong Kong. I am sure that for a while there, both Chinese Taipei and Qatar, watched with disbelieving eyes (just like everyone else glued to that game) as Hong Kong gave the home team the fits on both ends of the court.

Prior to their final match of the second round, Hong Kong had never won one period in four matches. Not one. They drew one and that’s about it. However, in the 15 other periods they got killed.

“No pressure on us,” said HK center Duncan Reid before the game. I had interviewed him two days before their match against Gilas Pilipinas. Along with his other teammates, they expressed admiration for the home side’s fearlessness, fighting heart, and talent. “It’s on the Philippines. But we’re not going to roll over and die easily.”

This team of professionals (that includes a fireman, a cop, a pair of university professors and a bunch of recent graduates including one who arrived a day late to FIBA because he had a job interview, and a handful of semiprofessional basketball players) stepped on the court and showed their potential and fighting heart as it took a Gabe Norwood-inspired stand to finally repulse our Southeast Asian neighbors.

The day before, Duncan took an elbow to the mouth from a Jordanian player that knocked him out of the match. “You okay,” I asked him while he was getting stitched up on his busted lip by medics on the sidelines. “Yeah,” he mumbled (he was getting stitched and cleaned up). “Nothing is going to stop me from playing tomorrow.”

Their team was surprised at how friendly the fans were considering the Philippine Men’s National Football Team and some supporters were showered with verbal and racist abuse during a recent friendly. “It’s almost embarrassing,” quipped Fong Shing Yee in Chinese (it was translated by Duncan who is Chinese-Canadian). “I think more people here are interested in writing about us (the national team) than in Hong Kong. That’s nice.”

Against the Philippines, they shed that niceness and hoped for an ambush. They even took an improbable seven-point lead at the start of the game while Gilas was scoreless for the first three minutes and thirty-three seconds. Reid led the way with a putback off a missed shot by a teammate.

At the 6:06 mark, in his best attempt to prove that white men can jump, Reid hit a classic style hook shot over Marcus Douthit’s outstretched arms for a 9-2 lead. He ran back on defense as if it was no big deal but he was privately elated. “Marcus is a great player as are the rest of his teammates,” he would say later on.

Whether the Filipinos relaxed after Qatar had defeated Chinese Taipei to give the Philippines a shot at the top seed of Group E or they were in the midst of a horrific shooting day (it was a mixture of both actually), Hong Kong after awhile felt they had a shot at the biggest upset of the tournament if they kept hitting their shots and playing tough defense.

They even maintained their lead at the halftime break, 33-28. They answered every Philippine run with a rally-breaker of their own. They had a shot of going up by seven after Lau Tung Leung put back a missed shot by Chan Yik Lun for a 33-26 lead, but Jason Castro managed to get to the free throw line with 2.3 seconds left.

‘There was excitement in the locker room at the half,” divulged Reid. “It was like, ‘Wow, we’re ahead of the Philippines! No way!’”

The Philippines came greeted the third period with a triple by sharpshooter Jeff Chan (12 points) to cut the lead down to two.

Under siege, the Chinese felt the pressure as a three-point play by Chan on an n undergoal stab off a bullet right through the middle of the lane by Douthit gave the Philippines the lead, 36-34.

“Then Chan (Siu Wing) hit that long shot from the top of the arc,” recalled Reid of the shot that momentarily restored their lead.

Both sides traded buckets before another Reid putback gave Hong Kong the lead for the last time at 39-38 with 1:50 to play. “We knew that any time the Philippines was going to say, ‘enough of this’ and go on a huge run. But we hung tight.”

With under four minutes to play and the score at 58-54 in favor of the Philippines (the crowd was restless at this point because the Chinese kept nipping at the heels of the home team while making huge shots), Gabe Norwood hit a turn around jumper from about 13 feet.

In Hong Kong’s next possession, he pilfered Lee Ki’s pockets and hightailed it down for an and-one that had the crowd erupting in relief. Norwood made good on his bonus shot for a 63-54 lead. “Gabe was the heart-taker,” described Reid of the Fil-American’s huge plays down the stretch.

Jimmy Alapag then stopped a Hong Kong response by blocking Chan Siu Wing’s three-point attempt. Jason Castro then scored on a lay-up and that pretty much killed any Chinese Taipei or Qatar notion that day was going to produce a second upset.

As the buzzer sounded the fans cheered the Philippine team for clinching the top spot of Group E and their heroic effort despite the ugly game and for the Hong Kong team that played their hearts out.

As the Chinese raced out to their locker room, a huge smile painted itself on Fong’s face. He played well despite picking up four early fouls (four points, four rebounds, and one assist). And his team outrebounded the more fancied Filipinos, 45-36. "We will take our small victories where they are," said HK team consultant Derrick Pumaren.

“It’s not going down as a win for us in the history books,” said Reid on his way out of the Mall of Asia Arena for the team bus. The Chinese-Canadian finished with a double double of 12 points and 19 rebounds to go with two assists and one steal. “But we’re going home with good memories and maybe hope for Hong Kong basketball.”


1 comment:

  1. We played like dummies, forcing the 3's.

    Or maybe, complacency!

    Or, we didn't want to reveal more.