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, September 12, 2013

My thoughts after Ateneo's loss to NU: I don't want to remember that sinking feeling.

I don’t want to remember that sinking feeling.
Then and now: the Ateneo Blue Eagles in a most difficult season.
by rick olivares

I think sometime early this UAAP basketball season, I said that while the lack of ceiling had the Season 73 vibe, in many ways, I wondered if this was like 1989 in some ways.

In the summer of 1989, the Ateneo Blue Eagles were defending and back-to-back champions. They looked on track to win a third straight title until they lost Danny Francisco to a heart ailment (they were practicing at a gym at the Department of Agrarian Reform in Quezon City when Danny complained of chest pains), Jay Gayoso (father to current AHS Blue Booter prodigy Jarvey Gayoso) and Alex Araneta to academics (in Alex's case, an under load), and Jet Nieto (father of current Blue Eaglets Matthew and Michael Nieto) to medical school.

Right away, the Ateneo frontline was cut down in size leaving Eric Reyes, Albert Mendoza (father of current Blue Eaglet Martin Mendoza), and Rico Santiago to patrol the shaded lane.

This season, the Blue Eagles lost Greg Slaughter, Justin Chua, and Nico Salva (as well as Oping Sumalinog and Tonino Gonzaga).

There was a swagger to those title teams of 1987 and 1988 than went 13-1 and 12-2 en route to the pair of titles. During that brief title reign, they won the National UAAP (today’s University Games) with Nonoy Chuatico hitting a game winning triple at the buzzer against Southwestern University (that had several future PBA players in Jun Jabar, Calvin Tuadles, and Primitivo Mutia) as well as a tournament in Cebu and an invitational in Baguio.

The previous year, La Salle defeated Ateneo in the first round, the first time the Green Archers had defeated the Blue Eagles in UAAP play. Ateneo took them out in the second round and in the finals to cop the championship. They would meet once more in a fight-marred semis of the National Seniors Tournament before Ateneo advanced to the finals where we lost to a stacked San Sebastian Stags team (that sent its entire team to the PBA).

As the Blue Eagles prepared for the new season, they had lost their coach, Fritz Gaston, and former player Ogie Narvasa took over.

This season, we have a new coach in Bo Perasol who follows a tough act left by Norman Black.

Opposing teams could smell blood in the water that 1989 basketball season. That the Blue Eagles were not the same team they once were. With the loss of Francisco and company, basketball observers felt that La Salle could snatch that crown from Ateneo (they did). Now in this UAAP Season 76, the Green Archers look like they could win it all.

Furthermore, there are familiar faces all over the league.

La Salle’s Main Man was center Zandro Limpot who is now an assistant to Juno Sauler. Bong Ravena was the UE (no ‘Red’ yet) Warriors’ star and a hybrid version of Roi Sumang and Ralf Olivares. Johnny Abarrientos, now an assistant at FEU, was coming on as one of the most exciting and potent point guards in the league with the Tamaraws.

Current Ateneo assistant coach Gene Afable was on that ’89 team while head coach Bo Perasol (he was UP's defensive specialist and he went up against centers like Ateneo's Eric Reyes and FEU's Vic Pablo) was in his freshman year playing for the UP Fighting Maroons with then-first time coach Rey Madrid. In case you want to know, UP finished 8-6 that season. Also on that team is current NU assistant coach Joey Guanio.

Other current Season 76 head coaches like David Zamar and Eric Altamirano concluded their college careers a few years earlier while FEU’s Nash Racela was playing for Ateneo’s PAYA Juniors team.

That ’89 season, Ateneo lost to La Salle, FEU, and UE in the first round. The Blue Eagles began to put it together early in the second round before several late losses knocked them out of the running for a finals berth (there was no Final Four during this time).

There was that sinking feeling watching the games at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum that year. That the reign was over. That La Salle had finally solved us. That we weren’t good enough. And there was an endless stream of ‘what ifs’ such as 'what if Danny had played'...

This Season 76, there's a whole bunch of what is too -- what if Kiefer didn't get injured before the start of the season; what if JP Erram was healthy; what if Jerie Pingoy was allowed to suit up and so on.

In 1989, I remember swingman Joseph Canlas who was the team’s best outside threat jacking up one missed shot after another in a game against FEU. He caught fire towards the end as Tamaraws Henry Padaong and Bryant Punzalan took turns trying to stop him but to no avail. But it was a little too late. The rally died because time ran out. I remember the headlines then, "FEU hammers nail on Ateneo's coffin'. Wow. 

After that loss to FEU, there was the do-or-die match against UP that featured three former Blue Eaglets in their starting five. The Fighting Maroons defeated Ateneo which played a most horrible game. As a result, the Blue Eagles were knocked out of contention.

And there was that final game of that season and that was against…. UST. It was a win in case you don't know against a Bobby Jose-led Glowing Goldies team. Incidentally, Jose's kids now suit up for the Ateneo Lady Eagles (Danica) and Blue Eaglets (Ivan).

And now I’ll bring it back to this Season 76, where Ateneo lost to NU, 70-65, in a crucial match and now UST is the final opponent.

Against the Bulldogs, the Blue Eagles shot an anemic 34% from the field and a shockingly bad 11.8% from three-point range. I know that we’ve become a perimeter-shooting team but isn’t it when the going gets tough from there you’re supposed to take it inside? Why wait 'til the end game?

Furthermore, our woes were compounded by the bad games (an understatement) by Ryan Buenafe and Kiefer Ravena. Ryan was off while Kief was half off and half bothered by the defense of Mark Porter.

Just when the Blue Eagles were close to overhauling the lead of NU, they turned the ball over or took a poor shot.

It took the second unit – of JP Erram, Von Pessumal, Nico Elorde, and Vince Tolentino with Chris Newsome the only starter to get the team running. Erram played his best game and even scored with the go-ahead basket, 53-52, with 5:42 left in the game clock.

Except Ateneo couldn’t hold onto it.

There was a moment in the fourth period with about six minutes to play and that five held NU scoreless for several possessions. I felt that Buenafe, Ravena, and Juami Tiongson should have been sent back but at the same time, it was only right to keep them there since they got back the lead and stopped NU. But when the players on the floor couldn’t score anymore the starters had to be brought back with four and change to play.

Except that scoring malaise continued. A great many shots from close range were also bricked! And there were crucial turnovers as well.

Chris Newsome kept the team in the game with his free throw shooting but of the other starters, only Tiongson contributed a point. One point to be exact. In hindsight, maybe  Erram should have been kept in the game as he had 11 points and six boards.

I wondered why it was only in the end when the team chose to drive inside as opposed to taking outside shots. By then it was kind of late. If they had done so earlier they might have put NU’s center Jean Mbe on the bench.

It was an ugly game for sure in a match where we needed a win and for the first time since 1979 (to my recollection), NU has swept the season series. Now not everything is in our hands. And that’s tough when you have to rely on other teams’ fortunes.

I know there is still one chance left to make it to the Final Four. But that’s hoping La Salle beats UST and we boot the Growling Tigers from contention next Wednesday.

There are similarities and differences between now and 1989. One difference is that down to the last time, it does count. Make the most of this, Ateneo. I don't want to remember that sinking feeling of 1989 all over again.


Eric Reyes, center on that 1986-90 Ateneo teams, asked me how could I recall 1989 so vividly. My answer: It was such a trying season. Those two games in the second round that knocked us out had me in tears up in the bleachers of the Rizal Memorial Coliseum. I hate that sinking feeling. I also have to mention Albert Mendoza who remembered the UP game in '89. Wasn't sure anymore if it was UP or Adamson. Against the Falcons that season, there were two game winners by Ateneo at the buzzer. In the second win over the Falcons, Ogie Narvasa went to a six-man rotation - Jun and Eric Reyes, Sep Canlas, Olsen Racela, Gene Afable, and Mendoza  who all scored in double figures in that win.


In 1990, Chot Reyes took over the Blue Eagles making him the fourth head coach in as many years. But he did well with what he had in the pre-Ateneo program world. What am I getting at? I see Chot coaching his alma mater one more time before he calls it a career. When? Who knows. Just my gut feel.


  1. Even if UST beats DLSU, if they lose to us they'll finish at 8-6... TIED with Ateneo. That would mean a Playoff game then to decide the last slot. So our fate IS in our hands.

  2. If UST wins over DLSU, is it all over for us???

    1. Nope. Butas ng karayom.

    2. We are neither a rich man or a camel

  3. It's been a really tough season, but I agree that our fate is still in our hands! Hoping for the best. If we win it all, this has got to be the sweetest championship. One big fight!

  4. Not completely in our hands. Those self-interested UAAP board members could decide to end our season with a forfeiture.

    1. Not with a counter protest of the same rule on athletes.
      Worse case is a replay methinks.

  5. If ust beats la salle, ateneo will have to beat ust twice just to make the 4th slot (and the "replay" vs UE). 3 more games Sheesh. Have mercy board. That was a clear win vs Ue 'on the court'.

    lol, this is one weird feeling when I want a dlsu win in a game, dang. di lang butas ng karayom, pero lunukan na rin ng pride.

    Kung di ilalaglag ng la sale, then best of 3 sila ng feu para sa one of the finals slot. if they lose to ust, then they wait for the loser of feu-nu (for seeding) which they have to beat twice to make the finals. Choice is yours dlsu. Would u want to make it harder for admu and yourselves? or an easier route? ^^

  6. Fritz and Chris Calilan had one championship each in that back-to-back. Just don't remember who won it first. Not sure, but I think Narvasa replaced Calilan. And Fritz is the only alum who secured a championship for Ateneo in the Uaap.

    Not sure too but I think that was the season we had a rumble with UP lol

  7. Calilan won our first Uaap championship.

  8. Nagsabay pa ang Ryan at Kiefer :(

  9. Yong Canlas-Marata brawl happened the year before.

  10. It is obvious that Parks does not respect the Defense of Newsome!

    1. New's weakness is his brake fluid lol. Anyone who has an abrupt stop and jumpshot would be difficult for New. he should take pointers from Long.

  11. Now more than ever,,,BELIEVE!!! OBF!

  12. Nakakahiya naman pag di pa nakapasok sa final 4 ang ateneo. Lahat na ng pwedeng pabor binigay na sa inyo. Dapat naman masama na kayo sa final 4. Or more so. Im kinda expecting more drama to happen maipasok lang kayo ng board sa finals.

  13. Mas nakakhiya ang UE. E seeded pa nga (di lang f4 kundi) sa finals yan mga yan ngayong may super import na kayo eh. At least ang Ust(last year) at Nu now pumasok sa f4 (at 2x to beat pa Nu this year). bawing bawi na yong gastos sa imports. E ang Ue, laglag na. Sinubukan pang manalo sa Board pero bigo. Tsk tsk tsk, Iyakan mo na lang yan bata...

  14. Nag-improve naman record ng UE ha. Di ba laging pinapa-alala ni Zamar na 7th sila last year? Kaya pa nila 6th! O ha improvement.

  15. I honestly think we are getting there, and unfortunately, so is UST. This is my forecast: whoever. between UST and us, gets to the FINAL 4 wins the Championship!