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.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Southwestern University Cobras are for real!

This appears in the Monday, May 12, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.

SWU is for real
by rick olivares

It turns out, Yayoy Alcoseba wasn’t bluffing. His Southwestern University Cobras have indeed made a statement.

Down by five points, 77-72, to the erstwhile unbeaten Perpetual Help Altas with 1:22 left in the game, rookie guard Antonio Pardo drilled a three-pointer to cut the deficit to two. The Altas’ Harold Arboleda tried to get it back but his three clanged off the front rim.

In their next possession, the Cobras threw the ball into the post to Cameroonian center Landry Sanjo quickly spun around Arboleda for a lay-in to notch the count with 32 seconds to play.

After Perpetual called for time, Arboleda drove to the basket where Sanjo blocked him. After a brief battle for the loose ball, the Altas’ Juneric Baloria emerged with the ball but Sanjo also rejected his short stab.

The ball was pitched forward to Pardo who instead of driving towards the basket, pulled back to wait for point guard Mark Tallo. With five seconds left to play, Tallo, who had hit three of seven shots from beyond the arc, drew two defenders. He whipped the ball over to Pardo who had drifted over to the left side. Unguarded and with a second to shoot, the rookie out of Ateneo de Zamboanga let loose. It was a buzzer-beating game winner, 79-77.

Alcoseba pumped his fist in elation.

“This win is for all Cebuanos,” proclaimed SWU’s coach after the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup match. “I am happy and excited because two wins in Manila is a bonus.”

For a while there, the Cobras were staring at a loss against the “upset” conscious Altas. Even at 3-0, Perpetual Help were still the underdogs. Their double-teaming schemes and tough play kept them in the game and put them in a position to win it. In the previous days leading up to the match, Perpetual’s head coach Aric del Rosario spoke of the need of the bench to show up. In their first three games, their Fab Four of Juneric Baloria, Justine Alano, Harold Arboleda, and Earl Thompson had scored 90% of their team’s points.

In a bid to keep that four on the floor and foul free, del Rosario had Baloria come off the bench. Ric Gallardo had the honor of guarding the high leaping and highly physical Sanjo while Flash Sadiwa was to run the point. But it will take more than a few hair highlights for Sadiwa to replace former point guard Jet Vidal who was the Altas’ primary outside threat when he was still wearing a UPHDS jersey.

Gallardo was clearly manhandled in the first period as he racked up three quick fouls against Sanjo. Nestor Bantayan the second of del Rosario’s three-headed monster (the third was Kevin Oliveria) set to contain Sanjo and alternate Justine Aboude, had a modicum of success against the foreign players. The aptly named Bantayan, in his six short minutes on the floor, scored four points and elicited two fouls on Sanjo.

But there’s a price to pay for double or triple-teaming Sanjo or a big man who can put that ball in the basket… someone is going to be left open.

One fundamental difference in this year’s SWU team as compared to last year’s squad is they have three very good shooters arrayed around the arc in Mark Tallo, Jasper Parker, and Antonio Pardo.

Tallo is a markedly improved player from last season where he oft turned the ball over and wasn’t consistent offensively. Version 2.0 is dangerous as he can shoot and recognize open teammates. He’s also heftier and can take a hit and still finish.

Parker – these are bold words here – could be the second coming of Jimmy Alapag. He shoots with his feet squarely planted. He has a quick first step. He’s got a medium range shot and can drive hard to the basket. JR as he is nicknamed, foreshadowed Pardo’s endgame heroics with a bucket at the buzzer to end the first half, 42-38, Perpetual Help.

Pardo… well, he’s shooting 50% from the three-point arc at 7-14 (he’s at 23% from medium range though). He’s a threat much like Matt Salem is for La Salle with his instant offense. He doesn’t get too many touches but he’s always ready to take the shot.

And SWU hit 7-18 three-pointers and as a team, they made good on 46% of their field goals.

As for Perpetual, they didn’t get the usual output of their Fab Four but as Del Rosario hoped, the bench came up big.

Points in the Paint
Perpetual Help

Unlike their spirited defense and attack on UE’s duo of Charles Mammie and Moustaph Arafat, the Altas looked a little tentative if not lacking in . There wasn’t any of those dagger looks or stare downs that Justine Alano and Juneric Baloria gave opposing players in their previous three matches.

Although the Altas Fab Four combined for 56 points, they did get 21 points from other players.

Stats-wise, both teams were more or less even.

Free Throws
Perpetual Help

So how did this result come about?

The SWU Cobras went back to what worked well in the first half.

At the 1:42 mark of the fourth period, Sanjo noticed that Arboleda was busy directing their man-zone. Arboleda took his eye off Sanjo for a split second and the Cobras’ center immediately drove hard for a bucket that cut Perpetual Help’s lead down, 74-72.

Sanjo blocked Alano in the Altas’ next possession but the ball remained with Perpetual Help.

For the third time in the game, the Altas went to their nakaw play with the inbounder finding Earl Thompson open at the right corner pocket. It was a huge trey that could have knocked the sails out of SWU. But that double team and slow rotation to the open man saw Pardo hit that huge trey.

After that botched trey by Arboleda and with only single coverage, Sanjo attacked inside again for the equalizer.

At this point, I was surprised that the ball wasn’t going to Baloria; after all, he scored eight points in the fourth period.

In that final play with 32 seconds left, del Rosario was screaming, “Kay Balo! Kay Balo!” But Arboleda drove.

They should have learned their lesson.

On a half court set without much space for Baloria to create, Perpetual Help had a tough time driving to the basket. That was evident even back in the first period when Thompson drove with Sanjo fully set to block him. The Cameroonian sent the ball to the outside along the sidelines!

Arboleda had no confidence in that drive and lofted it right into Sanjo who emphatically erased it. Baloria was underneath the basket and no man’s land when Sanjo rejected his shot.

And that was it.

There are a lot of positives to take away from the match even for Perpetual Help. These guys can compete. If they only had a real stud of a center they would be favorites to compete for the NCAA crown.

Now SWU looks good heading back to Cebu with four matches to play there.

Statement indeed.

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