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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Edson Battiler has his first moment as a UE Red Warrior

Edson Battiler has his first moment as a UE Red Warrior
by rick olivares

Edson Battiler drove to the basket. One step inside the lane, the ball was swiped away from him leading to a fastbreak bucket by a CEU Scorpion.

One play later, he was given the ball on the baseline and he short-armed a jumper with the rebound by another Scorpion igniting the fastbreak.

Battiler shook his head and apologized to the bench. Dindo Pumaren standing in for older brother Derrick who was late pending another appointment that took too long to finish shook his head in dismay.

Sometimes, errors and bad play can be contagious. In the UE Red Warriors’ case, center RR De Leon was soon infected. He turned the ball over and airballed a jumper.

Pumaren called for time and subbed out the two players. Battiler went to the bench with his head hung and feeling downcast.

In three previous games for UE in the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, Edson averaged 1.3 points per game. Worse, he had more turnovers than points – five to four. And on defense, more often than not, he was burned.

Homesickness wasn’t the problem. After all, it has been more than a year since he moved to Manila. “Sa Holy Trinity, run and gun lang kami,” said Battiler. It was his way of saying that defense was an anathema to his team.

Unfortunately, Derrick Pumaren is a defensive-oriented coach. That fullcourt press has been a staple of his squads for more than two decades.

Battiler admitted it is taking time to get used to what his coach wants. But he is quick to say that his Red Warriors mentor is the best coach he’s ever had. “Sobrang galing ni Manong (as Pumaren is fondly called by his players because of his fatherly approach off the court). Ang dami ko natutunan. At marami pa akong matututunan.”

The Red Warriors have been offensively challenged since the departure of some of its former stars. This season, they have struggled to put points in the basket. Their 3-0 record is the result of defense. Winning ugly by putting the ball into the hoop or through free throws.

Against the offensive juggernaut that is the CEU Scorpions with its bevy of talented players who have gained a lot of experience in the D-League, it was a yin yang challenge – offense versus defense. Youth and inexperience versus championship caliber and loads of experience.

For three fourths of the match it looked like the latter would prevail as UE fell behind by 12 points in the middle of the third as the Red Warriors struggled to hit the side of the building.

With Edgar Charcos, the hero of the win against Mapua, misfiring (he finished with a measly two points; with Pau Varilla unable to get going (until the final minute of overtime); with Renz Palma, the adjudged Player of the Game also against the Cardinals on the bench, UE was in need of a hero.

Into the breach first stepped Chris Javier and rookie guard Philip Manalang.

Javier had hoped for a bright college career. He was a stud on a San Beda Red Cubs team alongside Alfonso Gotladera. When he got to UE, the team was an underachieving one that had gone through multiple coaching changes. Yet somehow, he looked to be doing well particularly after hitting consecutive game winning shots first against UP and then Ateneo. His confidence and morale greatly eroded with the arrival of Charles Mammie and then Moustapha Arafat. Against Mapua, Derrick Pumaren consigned him to the bench after Cardinals center Allwell Oraeme blocked his ill-advised shot and forced him into two turnovers. “Kung ayaw mo maglaro ng maayos umupo ka na lang,” sternly thundered Pumaren. Even if UE eventually won the game, Javier wore a long face.

Manalang was not picked up by the National University seniors team. “Too loaded, they said. So he went on to tryout for Adamson and UST before deciding to go to UE. It hurt the young point guard that he was left to find a team. But Manalang was all to glad to be going to UE.

During that third quarter crash and burn, both Javier and Manalang presided over the rally. The former by putting points on the board; the latter with his defense.

In the waning moments of the fourth period, however, the torch was passed to Battiler. He scored first on a fastbreak lay-up off a long pass by Bertrand Awana. Then with time running out, he hit a triple from the top of the arc to bring UE within four, 58-54.

Come overtime, he hit another triple, badly missed an open one, before using a Javier pick to hit a fadeaway shot with 33 seconds left “that was in the flow of the game” as Pumaren would later describe. “It was all net,” beamed Pumaren. “All net.” It was the game winner as both sides would not score again. UE had won, 65-62, and were now 4-0 in the Filoil Cup.

As the buzzer sounded, Battiler’s teammates mobbed him at center court. The Pumaren brothers shook his hand with Dindo giving him a playful rub on the head. Inside the press room, “Manong” was effuse in his praise for his first ever recruit for UE. “Today he showed what I saw in him two years ago. Hopefully this will give him the confidence to be consistent.”

The kid from General Santos City who scored 15 points in what is hoped will be his breakout game, had his UE moment. “Sana hindi to ang last,’ he quipped. He then packed his bags and left the empty dugout.

He was the last one on board the UE bus where his teammates once more clapped and yelled.


Additional reading: Edson Battiler during his time with the Holy Trinity Wildcats

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