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, April 28, 2016

Adamson Falcons get a dose of California Fil-Am sunshine

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Adamson Falcons get a dose of California Fil-Am sunshine
by rick olivares

Things are looking bright for the Adamson Falcons as they get a dose of some California sunshine with their young and exciting batch of Fil-Americans.

The Falcons despite finishing 3-11 in UAAP Season 78, were obviously a young and talented but woefully inexperienced squad. However, with champion tactician Franz Pumaren in the fold, you know that the Falcons have acquired more than coaching chops. They’ve attracted some pretty exciting talent… this time from the West Coast of the United States.

Gone are Joseph Nalos, William Polican, Jerome Garcia, Alwin Margallo, Gerald Fernandez Ivan Villanueva, and Nico Capote. The remnants from last year’s team are Khristian Bernardo, Jose Carlo Escalambre, Cristian Garcia, Harold Ng, Dawn Ochea, Papi Saar, Simon Camacho, Ken Miranda, and JD Tungcab. 

The newcomers include Fil-Ams Jerrick Ahanmisi, Charles Jordan Cadua, Jonathan Espeleta, Bruce Edwards, Robbie Manalang, Sean Maganti, Terrence Mustre, and Nikko Paranada, and former Baby Falcons point guard Frederick Pasturan. Mustre previously suited up for La Salle two seasons ago but transferred to the San Marcelino campus last season where he served out his residency.

Ahanmisi is the younger brother of Rain or Shine guard Maverick Ahanmisi and can play the two and three spots.
Five-foot-four CJ Cadua is a point guard out of Sweetwater High School in California. However, the small man made a reputation for playing bigger than his actual height. 

Another Californian is Bruce Edwards, a 6’4 forward out of La Jolla Country Day High School in La Jolla. Robbie Manalang is a 5’7” guard from Villa Park High School in Orange County. Sean Maganti is from Chaparral High School in Temecula that has graduated a number of American professional athletes including the Boston Red Sox’s Allen Thomas Craig, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Shane Peterson, former Cincinnati Bengal Tyler Hansen, Baltimore Ravens’ Talmadge Jackson III, and US Cycling Olympian Sarah Hammer. And lastly, Nikko Paranada is a 5’11” point guard from Foothills Christian High School in San Diego.

The sole FIl-Am not from California is Jonathan Espeleta, is a 6’1” shooting guard from Westlake High School in Waldorf, Maryland.

With the new additions, there seems to be a logjam at the one and two spots. Expect some players to be cut come UAAP time. 

The new look Adamson Falcons squad will make its Filoil Flying V Premier Cup debut this Saturday, April 30, when they play La Salle at 2pm at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Ateneo Lady Eagles serve up a timeless lesson about heart

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The Ateneo Lady Eagles serve up a timeless lesson about heart
by rick olivares pic by arvin lim

You’ve heard how kids say the darndest things. Well, how about a group of teenage girls and young adults teaching us some of the most incredible things. You know… like believing, not giving up, and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in a game for the ages. 

You can be forgiven for thinking that the Ateneo Lady Eagles were dead in the water after they fell behind two sets to none and La Salle ready to wrap this up for their ninth UAAP Women’s Volleyball championship. After all they coughed up a huge three-point lead late in the second set and La Salle looked imperious in the early goings of the third set.

Yet come back they did. They reached deep into that reservoir of hope they call “Heartstrong” for a massive comeback win in five sets that not only evened the series at a match apiece but could have possibly reversed the tide against a very good and frightening volleyball machine. 

However this series ends, these Lady Eagles will have served up another lesson in that creed that all who went to the Ateneo hold dear — giving it that One Big Fight. Game One lacked it but they sure made up for it in this match.

As for this Lady Eagles squad of Anusorn Bundit… they seem to make a knack out of comebacks. They pretty much wrote the book on that in that daydream miracle of a Season 76. This season, where they are, their record aside, is incredible considering who they’ve lost by the wayside.

They were supposed to have Michelle Morente, Kat Tolentino, and Maddie Madayag. 

Mich was knocked out because of academics. Kat was lost during the V-League to a knee injury. Maddie… well, you all know what happened to her. During the aforementioned V-League, they had Gizelle Tan playing setter while Ella De Jesus plugged the huge hole left behind by libero par excellence, Denden Lazaro. That role was supposed to go to heir apparent Pam Dungo. Except she showed up before the season way out of shape. Now Gizelle, without even a pre-season to aptly learn the ropes on a position she’s not even the best at, is holding her own. 

So how’s that for a bad hand? In spite of that look at where they are. 

And speaking of bad hands, one game and two sets down… Ara Galang was pounding away, Mika Reyes was staring everyone down, Kim Fajardo was conducting a symphony of destruction, Kim Dy was finding holes in the Ateneo wall… They were doing everything right and scoring on incredible shots. In short, it was bleak. 

But there was that sliver of hope.

I said this during the first game of the Season 76 Finals and I mentioned it again during the second round match this Season 78 — La Salle had a chance to bury the Lady Eagles but they didn’t. 

This Game Two, Ateneo finished that first set strong. The Lady Eagles should have won the second set but hitting errors hurt them. But they were slowly finding their groove, like a diesel engine. And then they turned the heat on La Salle.

In an incandescent performance, Alyssa Valdez, on the day she was crowned the league’s Most Valuable Player for the third straight year, carried her team in true Jordanesque fashion -- doing something, anything, and everything. She played defense, served some mean ones, killed that ball dead, scored on those incredible backrow attacks, and perhaps more importantly, pulled her teammates together during huddles. That is why she has this massive following and is the game’s face. She brings it like no one else. Those 34 points? I will paraphrase former Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan who after his team was skewered by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls 96-54 in Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals, “I thought she scored 134 points.”

Sometimes, newly crowned MVPs play bad on coronation day. No such luck for La Salle. Valdez was Jordanesque.

Following her lead, Jia Morado, injury and all, battled the game’s best in Kim Fajardo. In spite of her youth, you know she’s special. And she finished with 70 excellent sets.

And the rest of the team like Jhoana Maraguinot, Bea De Leon, Amy Ahomiro, and Kim Gequillana did their part chipping in here and there. Even Therese Gaston made good in her cameo appearance. 

Now, the Ateneo Lady Eagles are in a good position to win it for a third straight year.

Once more, however this championship series ends, the Ateneo Lady Eagles should give us pause to be thankful for their incredible efforts that have resulted in great victories, historic championships, and stories we will revisit forever in our lifetime and maybe the next. They’ve brought pride and restored it some. Plus, they’ve fought that One Big Fight.

And that is all we ever ask of them.


Additional reading: Alyssa Valdez & Marck Espejo are Season 78 MVPs.

All eyes on Ayo’s Archers in Filoil Flying V debu

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All eyes on Ayo’s Archers in Filoil Flying V debut
by rick olivares

When the La Salle Green Archers take to the hardcourt when the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup tips off this Saturday, April 30, all eyes will be not only on their new players but also their new head coach who comes in with a lot of expectations.

Aldin Ayo, fresh off his conquest of the NCAA Season 91 men’s basketball championship where his Letran Knights upset the six-peat seeking San Beda Red Lions will make his debut in a league that is considered the premier college pre-season tournament in the country. Ayo replaces Juno Sauler who led the Green Archers to their eighth UAAP title in 2013 and he brings with him that relentless trapping defense that he learned as a player with the Knights and refined as their head coach last season.

While the zone press isn’t new to La Salle as Derrick and Franz Pumaren employed that strategy during their respective tenures, Aldin Ayo’s version is relentless with the evidence pointing to Letran’s incredible and masterful season in the NCAA where they upset six-peat seeking San Beda. 

“We’re still learning the system,” cautioned assistant coach Paulo Sauler, one of two holdovers from the previous coaching staff with the other being Siot Tanquincen. Both served under Juno Sauler who is now with the Star Hotshots in the PBA. “But we’ll get there.”

Ayo brought over his staff from Letran including assistants Lius Gonzales and Glenn Capacio.

While in Letran, Ayo made use of Mark Cruz, Rey Nambatac, or McJour Luib to guard the three passing lanes with athletic forward Kevin Racal playing like a free safety in the event of a long inbound pass or crosscourt pass from rapped players.

“I think we have the players to execute what coach Aldin wants,” corroborated Sauler. “We have the athletes and youth to make it work. With Ben in the line-up, he will address some of our height issues. That will free up our bigs like Abu and Larry to help grab those rebounds and do some scoring."

However, Sauler pointed to the relative youth of the team with only Jeron Teng, Thomas Torres, and Kib Montalbo the only ones left from the Season 76 UAAP championship team. “We’ve got a mostly young team with lots of potential.”

The veterans will have to count on juniors Abu Tratter and Prince Rivero as well as sophomores Jollo Go, Andrei Caracut, Larry Muyang, Andrew Langston, and Jayboy Gob for support. The rookies include Aljun Melecio, Ricci Rivero, Mark Dyke, and Brent Paraiso. Cameroonian center Ben Mbala after a two-year delay will finally make his league debut. 

La Salle will make their Filoil Flying V Premier Cup debut on opening day, April 30 at 2pm at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan against the Franz Pumaren-coached Adamson team that includes former Green Archer point guard Terrence Mustre who played alongside Teng and Torres on the Season 76 champion team.

Tickets to the tournament are available at the venue gate as well as Ticketnet outlets.

Hillsborough: Anatomy of Disaster

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Guiao files petition vs PAGCOR, PCSO for denying PSC funds

Guiao files petition vs PAGCOR, PCSO for denying PSC funds
by rick olivares

In a bold stroke, Joseller “Yeng” Guiao, took off his coaching hat and put on his congressman’s barong to go where no local sports official or government official has gone before… he filed a Petition for Mandamus with the Supreme Court yesterday, Tuesday, April 26, against the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for their collective failure to honor their obligation to remit close to PhP4 billion, from 2010-2015 alone, to the Philippine Sports Commission.

"In Section 26 of Republic Act 6847 better known as “the Philippine Sports Commission Act” of 1990, it is clearly mandated that 5% of PAGCOR’s gross income should be automatically remitted to the Philippine Sports Commission,” noted Guiao who aside from his head coaching duties with PBA club Rain or Shine is also Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Youth and Sports. “If you look at the law, it is very clear — 5% of PAGCOR’s gross income shall be automatically remitted directly to the PSC. The operational words are ‘shall' and ‘automatically.’ That leaves no room for interpretation. It is very clear. For PCSO, they are also supposed to remit 30% of the proceeds from six sweepstakes or lottery draws per annum but so far they have refused to comply. That is clear, sweepstakes or lottery."

The gaming agency has unilaterally decreased its contribution to 2.1% of its gross income since 1993. “So if you count the years from 1993 (under the administration of former president Fidel V. Ramos), that is possibly about PhP10 billion pesos that were allocated for sports development but never reached the PSC,” said the solon.

"In the committee hearings in congress, this always comes up when we discuss funding for sports. So dapat talaga matapos na. I am on the committee for youth and sports, I am not doing my job if I cannot do this. Now if the Supreme Court renders a decision pro or against, at least alam na natin kung ano yung situation natin at hindi tayo nakabitin."

Guiao was quick to clarify that the timing of the filing for the petition of a judicial writ isn’t politically motivated. The congressman who is in his second term in Pampanga is a member of the Liberal Party. "I’d like to emphasize that the timing is best now. For one, this does not hurt this government because I don’t think this case is going to be decided in the next 60-plus days. For the next administration, it does not become political or personal against the next government. We’re neutral. This isn’t anyone’s fault. This was just a carryover from before. No one was questioning it."

"Everyone is asking the same thing, batas na natin ito so we’re expecting that this will be followed to the letter but PSC is saying we’re only receiving this amount and not this. Everyone is surprised but no one is doing anything. So this is the time to do something about this."

“It is sad that the lack of funds deprives us of promoting sports development,” observed Guiao. “Like every other Filipino, I get upset when I see our performances in competitions from the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games or the Olympics. We can clearly do better. The necessary monies doesn’t mean that we will win a gold medal tomorrow but it will put us on that path for better performances and results.”

“If we are successful in recovering PSC’s just share from PAGCOR and PCSO remittances, imagine the good that it will do to Philippine Sports. We can build better facilities, provide better nutrition and training to our athletes. We will also have enough funds to build a new national training center to replace our flood-prone and pollution-laden complex in Manila." 

Alyssa Valdez, Marck Espejo repeat as UAAP Season 78 Volleyball MVPs & other awardees

Valdez, Espejo repeat as Volleyball MVPs
by rick olivares

Alyssa Valdez is the UAAP’s Most Valuable Player for the Women’s Division for a third year in the row. The graduating Ateneo Lady Eagle is also the league’s Best Scorer and Server, making it also a three-peat of sorts as she has won in all three categories the past three seasons. In Season 75, her sophomore season, she was the Best Scorer. 

While the individual awards are huge for Valdez, she hopes her team can bounce back in Game 2 of the UAAP Finals to force a Game 3. “The individual awards are nice but a team award is better because everyone can celebrate and cherish that,” said Valdez of her solo efforts vis-a-vis a collective goal. “A three-peat will be wonderful but all we can do is go out and give it out best.

Other Women’s Division Awardees
Best Spiker - Jaja Santiago (National University)
Best Blocker - Mary Joy Baron (De La Salle University)
Best Digger - Dawn Macandili (De La Salle University)
Best Receiver - Dawn Macandili (De La Salle University)
Best Server - Kim Fajardo (De La Salle University)
Rookie of the Year - Isa Molde (University of the Philippines)

Over at the Men’s Division, Ateneo makes it a twin kill for repeat season MVP awards as the phenomenal Marck Espejo is also league MVP. He also bagged the Best Spiker and Best Server awards.

Best Scorer - Raymark Woo (De La Salle University) 
Best Blocker - Edward Camposano (University of the East)
Best Digger - Ricky Marcos (National University)
Best Setter - Esmilzo Polvorosa (Ateneo de Manila University)
Best Receiver - Rikko Marius Marmeto (Far Eastern University)
Rookie of the Year - James Natividad (National University)

Ateneo defeated NU in four sets to take a one-game lead and hope to close out the championship series in two matches.

The next day of the volleyball finals in on Wednesday.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Next generation ballers suiting up for Ateneo Blue Eaglets

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Next generation ballers suiting up for Ateneo Blue Eaglets
by rick olivares

At one point in their young lives, Danny Ildefonso (NU), Dennis Espino (UST), and Rodney Santos (San Sebastian) intersected in the 1990s playing in their respective leagues as well as the now defunct Philippine Amateur Basketball League. And of course, in the Philippine Basketball Association. 

Now their sons are all on one team… the Ateneo Blue Eaglets.

Ildefonso is in his second year with the Eaglets, his team losing in last UAAP Juniors season’s Final Four to De La Salle Zobel. He returns to team up with Josh Espino and Migo Santos. Espino stands around 6’3” and will play the four and five alongside 6’6” Zack Salazar who was on the Eaglets’ Team B last season. Santos, at 5’10" will play the two guard. Ildefonso plays the two and three.

There’s also a third generation Ateneo player on the team — Gian Afable whose father Gene won a UAAP basketball title in 1988. An uncle of the father was former Blue Eagle hotshot Chito Afable who was a part of the 1969 NCAA Ateneo champion squad. 

“Right now, we will not win based on pedigree,” said Ateneo Blue Eaglets head coach Joe Silva. “We will need to work hard for any success. And we hope that our veterans — Carlos Gatmaytan, SJ Belangel, Jason Credo, and Dave Ildefonso will lead this team.”

Other players named to the squad include Andrei Flores, Amchel Angeles, Rap Escalona, Rajah Gusi, Allen Tañedo, Cholo Deonio, Jeco and Gabe Laud, Andrei Davidas, and JM Berjay. Forward RV Berjay should return to the lineup by the Blue Eaglets’ third match as he has to attend to some academic requirements.

Of late, there have been a spate of next generation players. Most recently, they featured Aaron Black (son of Norman Black), Thirdy Ravena (son of Bong Ravena and younger brother of Kiefer), Matt and Mike Nieto (twin sons of former Ateneo Blue Eagle Jet Nieto), Shaun Ildefonso (older brother of Dave), and Jolo Mendoza (son of former UP Fighting Maroon Jiggs Mendoza). If Kobe Paras didn’t transfer to La Salle Greenhills and subsequently the United States to pursue a NCAA Division 1 and NBA dream, he was supposed to have played on Ateneo's 2015 UAAP Juniors champion squad.

Ateneo Blue Eagles field curious Filoil Flying V lineup

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Ateneo fields curious Filoil Flying V lineup
by rick olivares

It is a curious line-up albeit temporary that was submitted by the Ateneo Blue Eagles to the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup. 

Of the 14 names submitted to the country’s top pre-season college basketball league, only four suited up in Ateneo’s blue and whites the previous UAAP campaign.

The only names on the Blue Eagles UAAP Season 78 roster are John Apacible, Aaron Black, Chibueze Ikeh, Matt Nieto, and Vince Tolentino. The new faces on the squad include Bryan Andrade from the Ateneo Blue Eaglets, Tyler Tio who came up from the Xavier Stallions, and Team B call-ups Jose Manuel Escaler, Louis Timothy Cu, Jay Javelosa, Cole Micek, Marc Salandanan, and Dan Wong, brother of Adrian Wong who made a huge splash last season with his late game heroics. Thirdy Ravena, younger brother of Kiefer, makes his return to the line-up after sitting out last season due academics. Javelosa on the other hand returns to the Team A line-up after moving down to Team B last season.

“It’s a temporary one,” bared assistant head coach Sandy Arespacochaga who added that Ateneo merely complied with the deadline for the submission of players. “We will make changes over the next few days or weeks because many of our players are still unavailable because of their final weeks of class."

Conspicuously missing are Adrian Wong, Arvin Tolentino, Hubert Cani, Isaac Go, Jerie Pingoy, Mike Nieto, GBoy Babilonia, and much-ballyhooed transferee CJ Perez. According to Ateneo manager Chris Quimpo, the other players should gradually make a return to the line-up in a couple of weeks upon completion of their academic requirements.

The Ateneo Blue Eagles will also sport a new but familiar figure on the sidelines in team consultant Tab Baldwin who is also the national team head coach. 

Ateneo missed the two previous Filoil Flying V Premier Cups after they opted to train abroad. The team finally returned to domestic pre-season tournaments with Baldwin saying that the exposure will be good for both the coaching staff and the players “as we need to see what we are up against.”

The Blue Eagles make their Filoil debut on Saturday, April 30, against the University of the East Red Warriors at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan. Tip-off is at 4pm. The opening match will pit Adamson University against De La Salle University at 2pm.

In Juniors play, the San Beda Red Cubs take on the Ateneo Blue Eaglets at 6pm.

Tickets to the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup are available at the ticket office of the Filoil Flying V Centre as well as all Ticketnet outlets.


The Ateneo Blue Eagles' Filoil sked:

Vs UE April 30 4pm
Vs Adamson May 6 4pm 
Vs Letran May 26 5pm
Vs. Lyceum May 27 5pm
Vs. San Beda May 28 5pm
Vs. Mapua June 2  5pm

Vs. La Salle June 4 4pm

Cast my votes for my Major League Baseball All-Star Game selections

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bata, Django go to Batang City Jail

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Bata, Django go to Batang City Jail
by rick olivares

“If you don’t make this shot, you’re staying behind,” teased Django Bustamante.

Colleague Efren “Bata” Reyes smiled, rubbed chalk on his cue stick, and sank his trademark “SMB” trick shot as the huge crowd at the Sigue Sigue Sputnik compound at the New Bilibid Prison roared in approval.

The two world-class billiards players made their long-planned exhibition games inside the New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa last Saturday, April 23, where they played against and with the eight best cue artists from the penitentiary.

“Efren saw some of the pictures that I would post on my Facebook wall about our sports program here at New Bilibid,” related Philippine Sports Commission Commissioner Jose Luis “Jolly” Gomez during the opening address to the officials and inmates of the national penitentiary at the Sigue Sigue Sputnik compound. “And he told me that he would very much like to get involved in our events. So here he is along with another of our world-class athletes, Django Bustamante.”

The PSC organized a two-week prison-wide billiards tournament wherein eight inmates emerged as champions in their different groups for the right to compete against as well as alongside the two billiards legends. “Activities like sports keeps the morale high and people out of trouble,” added Anthony Omega, chief of the Sports And Recreation Office of the Bureau of Corrections. “The various sports programs we introduce keeps people fit and gives them hope of being good at something. Hopefully, it will help in the betterment of their lives."

“It’s a dream come true for not only me but for all of us,” said inmate Amadito Salditos who took part in the exhibition. 

It ended in truly dream-like fashion as Salditos defeated a rather unlucky Bata Reyes who scratched twice, losing 3-0. Bustamante had an easier time dispatching inmate Joven Geron, 3-1. 

In doubles competition, Bustamante and Ellan Del Rosario teamed up for a 3-0 win over Reyes and Richard Roque. Bata and Django then treated the crowds to several trick shots.

The two billiards legends later moved over to the Batang City Jail compound where they played with and against Marlow De Guzman and Alfredo Requiz. Inside the sweltering hot and jam-packed basketball court, the two, though visibly sweating, never ceased smiling. “The court is only packed like this for basketball games and Manny Pacquiao. And now, Bata and Django,” pointed out De Guzman. “The entire Bilibid came out to watch them play."

“If our presence her provided some momentary joy and hope for these people to change and rehabilitate their lives then it’s all good,” enthused Bustamente who regaled the crowds with his stories and huge victories alongside Reyes against the world’s best. “I’ve never had so much fun in my life.”

For his part, Reyes was happy. “It was hot,” said the man they call “the Magician” in the vernacular. “But the smiles on people’s faces. The cheers. It was worth it.”

More than the event, Joven Geron received some valuable advice from Reyes. “He said that I am good at billiards and should I get out, I should not only make good choices in life but also work on my game to become a professional billiards player. Not too many people offer words of hope but he did. And it means a lot to me.”

Each inmate hurdled anywhere from 10 to 20 other contestants to reach the dream exhibition matches. 

“I would only see Bata and Django on television or read about them in the newspaper,” said Del Rosario. “Who would have thought I would get to see them, play against them here inside Bilibid."

Friday, April 22, 2016

Looking at the English Premier League table and its top seven teams

I don't think Leicester will lose this. What could happen is that the #3 and #4 positions in the table could change. Manchester United, West Ham United, and Liverpool have all come on strong this second round and are challenging for those Champions League slots.

Leicester's last four matches are against Swansea (at home in a match they should win), Manchester United (away that will be tough), Everton (at home but the Toffees' play better away from their homefield), and lastly at Chelsea's pitch of Stamford Bridge.

It doesn't get easier for Tottenham as well. They battle West Brom at home and they should win that handily. They face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge too. Southampton at home and Newcastle for their final match that is away. You bet the Magpies will want to win this as they are fighting to get out of relegation. Regardless where they are at that point, expect Newcastle to give it a good fight.

Arsenal should have an easier time but I really can't say for their form or morale. But they play Sunderland away, Norwich at home, Man City away, and their season ender at the Emirates against Aston Villa. Three of their last opponents are in the lower rung with only Aston Villa sure to be relegated.

Man City plays Stoke at home, Southampton away, Arsenal at home, and Swansea away. You really don't know what you're getting with the Citizens. I figure they're in a battle against everyone with no sure win.

The Red Devils play Leicester at home, Norwich away, West Ham away, and at home against Bournemouth. All will be tough battles. They will have their hands full.

West Ham plays in succession West Brom (A), Swansea (H), Man United (H), and Stoke (A).

Lastly, Liverpool is the only team in the top seven with five remaining fixtures. Newcastle (H) where they renew acquaintances with Rafa Benitez who is now manager of the Magpies. Swansea (A), Watford (H), Chelsea (H), and West Brom (A). If they play up to form, they could collect all 15 points and muscle their way to the Top Four.

The Season 78 UAAP Volleyball Finals: Literally for all the marbles.

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The Season 78 UAAP Volleyball Finals: Literally for all the marbles.
by rick olivares

Not all good things come in threes. Some of them come in fives.

The UAAP Volleyball Finals will have an air of a rubber match to them. The men’s division will pit Ateneo and National University for the third straight year with each school having a championship each. 

For the women’s division it’s Ateneo versus La Salle with the former the last two title holders and the latter taking championships in 2012 and 2013 all against each other.

Let’s take a look at the match ups starting off with the men’s championship.
Ateneo (13-1 elims including two wins over NU)
NU (10-4)

The tale of the tape:
Ateneo - Best in spiking, serving, setting, receiving, and digging.
NU - Best in blocking

I think that Ateneo has a better team this season than the one that won their first title in Season 77. They improved in almost every category offensively and defensively (the dropped though in blocking from third to sixth). This is the second consecutive finals they will face this new-look NU team (with Vince Mangulabnan the only holdover from their previous three teams that made the finals) as they took each other on in the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference that Ateneo won. I think that NU has gained the experience from that as well as this UAAP Season and are highly dangerous even if they lost the two elimination round matches to Ateneo.

For the Blue Spikers to win this, they will need players like Ysrael Marasigan, Rex Intal, Joshua Villanueva, and Karl Baysa to pick up their game to help the phenomenal Marck Espejo. They will need to stop Madzlan Gampong to give the Bulldogs some pause and re-think their offense.

I thought that in their second round encounter, NU gained a better measure of Ateneo after getting swept in three sets in the first round. In that second round match, the Bulldogs took the first set then battled in the next three although the Blue Eagles won them with some cushion. So I believe that NU is adjusting. It is up to Ateneo to raise the level of their game to repeat.

If NU can keep this close then they could steal a game or even maybe the championship. Madzlan Gampong and James Natividad have given the Bulldogs big time scorers to replace their previous high-scoring duo of Edwin Tolentino and Ben Inaudito. They are taller than Ateneo but that hasn’t been a factor; they’ll have to dig and receive better.

Let’s now shift over to the women’s championship.
Ateneo (12-2 including a second round win over La Salle)
La Salle (13-3 including a first round win over Ateneo)

The tale of the tape:
Ateneo - Best in scoring. Second best in blocking, serving, and setting.
La Salle - Best in blocking, serving, setting, and receiving. Second best in scoring.

This one is going to be quite a treat and with no disrespect to the men’s championship because this is one where you will also have to observe the battle on the sidelines between one of the best coaches in the country (La Salle’s Ramil De Jesus) with a man who has revolutionized the game in three short years (Ateneo’s Anusorn Bundit).

Having said that, it is rightfully so that the best teams in the league will play for the championship. They aren’t only following each other in the standings but also in most statistical categories. Furthermore, there is an air of finality to this as several key players from both sides will graduate after this academic season; players who have seen this great finals rivalry through the years.

Now we’ve seen adjustments from both teams. Expect both teams to adjust to one another’s game plans. Ateneo finishing as the top seed doesn’t mean anything at this point. I believe that even during Ateneo’s two championships, La Salle has had better teams and that’s where the Lady Eagles’ mantra of “Heartstrong” comes to play as their trump card. This year, the Lady Spikers have the better team once more. Can Ateneo with a depleted line-up turn the trick a third time? It won’t be easy as head-to-head match-ups aside, this is a series where you can throw out all those stats. This will come down to the following:
Whose stars can step up?
Who plays better defense?
And who gets the jump on the other in Game One?

I don’t see this going the distance. It will be over in two. Boy, is this going to be a titanic battle.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Writing the bio of this great man... Senator Rene Saguisag!

I will be writing the biography of this great man... Senator Rene Saguisag! Looking forward to this. We're going to be shooting for an August (best case scenario) release if not, by early November (more likely). 

It will be about growing up and playing sports, his San Beda days, the post-First Quarter Storm, the pre and post-EDSA days, and his family life of course!

Two points from La Salle’s win over FEU in their Volleyball Final Four match up

This appears on

Two points from La Salle’s win over FEU 
by rick olivares pic by joey mendoza

Sometimes, when you play La Salle, you only get one chance.

The Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws sent their Final Four encounter with the Lady Spikers to a win-or-go-home match and save for certain stretches, they didn’t really show up.

During their first round meeting, La Salle swept FEU in three sets (25-15, 27-25, 25-21). In the second round, La Salle took the first two sets after which FEU won the next two to set up a fifth set in which they faltered. They seemingly gained confidence that they can play La Salle because in their Game One encounter in the semifinals, they lost the first two sets after which they rebounded to take the next three.

Now with a chance for the biggest upset of the tournament, they could have taken the second set from DLSU after which they led, 22-19, only to squander it and lose it in three.

La Salle advances to their eighth consecutive women’s volleyball finals while FEU is done for the year although they should feel good about themselves. 

Here are some points to take away from the match:

La Salle was good when they needed to be good.
The Lady Spikers played well in stretches but when they needed a point, they not only got one but they got them in bunches. 

The reason why I said in stretches, remember that part when DLSU head coach Ramil De Jesus pointed out that his girls were merely waiting for FEU to commit an error as opposed to taking the game to their faltering foe? 

Twice that happened — in the second and the third set. However, the reminders were timely as La Salle responded to close it out.

The Lady Spikers' serve was fantastic and once more they got a lot of contributions from many players — Ara Galang, Mary Joy Baron, Kim Dy, Cyd Demecillo, Mika Reyes, and of course, the person who drives their lean green machine, Kim Fajardo. 

Fajardo without a doubt is the best playmaker in the league and perhaps the best in the country right now. She has great instincts, vision, and packs a mean serve.

Now when you play La Salle, you cannot have one or two players simply playing well because the Lady Spikers always get a lot of contributions from different players.

Having said that...

FEU, not at their best, looked tentative, overwhelmed, and intimidated.
La Salle wasn’t at their snarling best but they got enough in the faces of their FEU counterparts. The Lady Tamaraws’ response?

Chin Basas, who can be snarky with opponents, didn’t respond because she of her poor game (along with Bernadeth Pons’ subpar performance). Without Pons and Basas providing scoring sock, FEU looked for a source of inspiration on the floor. There was a brief moment when the unlikely Heather Guino-O served three consecutive aces to give FEU a 22-19 second set lead. Remy Palma had that moment where she looked La Salle’s way after a point but now you know the Lady Spikers’ were in FEU’s collective heads because a reaction is what they want to provoke more so if it’s not in your game style.

Now if they had taken the second set there is no telling how the match would have gone. But that crucial substitution for Gyzelle Sy for Kyle Negrito hurt because of a poor set that led to a La Salle point to cut the lead down to one (following Guino-O’s service error after the aces). Then the Lady Spikers overhauled the lead only for FEU to even matters at 24-all, with a chance to win it, they faltered again giving La Salle a two-set lead.

More to the set, I should point out that Negrito wasn’t the only one who was shaky. Sy herself didn’t set up her teammates particularly well in the second frame. It is sad though for FEU fans because she is a very good setter. The problem though is she is on her final playing year.

Offense wasn’t the only problem, they had concerns about their receiving and digging. 

Although the Lady Tamaraws twice came back from two-set deficits, the burden and pressure was evident in their faces and body language this time around. You have to credit FEU coach Shaq Delos Santos for issuing calm instructions to his girls that they can successfully turn things around. Sure enough, they gave it a try but the lesson there is, “you can’t keep allowing the foe to take a sizeable lead because you cannot come back from that all the time.”

This season is something this team can build on for sure. They will be a contender for sure next season.

However, right now, it’s Ateneo versus La Salle for the UAAP Women’s Volleyball title for the fifth straight year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Those Blazing Meralco Bolts...

This appears in the Monday, April 25, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.

Building a Legacy
by rick olivares

If you go to the canteen at the Meralco Gym along Ortigas Avenue, the walls inside are filled with pictures of those great Meralco teams of yore.

Oh, you mean those Reddy Kilowatts? Reddy Kilowatts who?

If you weren’t watching basketball in the 1960s leading up to the early 1970s, then they might not ring a bell as they played in the old MICAA, the precursor of the PBA. 

The legends? They might sound plenty familiar if you’re an old time basketball fan… Big Boy Reynoso, Jimmy Mariano, Robert Jaworski, Francis Arnaiz, Orly Bauzon, Lawrence Mumar, and Fort Acuña to name a few.

So they line the walls, panel by panel.

The new generation Meralco squad… these Bolts…. well, they have some familiar names themselves but they won their glory elsewhere. Now, they’re conspiring to lead this six-year old franchise out of years of underachievement to the rarefied air of PBA champions.

Will the patience, rebuilding, and hard work pull through this time?

Of course, it isn’t easy. The San Miguel Beermen, champs in three of the past four conferences are looking to annex the second title of the season that will keep them on course for a — shhh — Grand Slam. Rain or Shine just dispatched Ginebra. Sister team Talk ’N Text is still filled with its savvy veterans who have won a smattering of championships. There are others too so you really cannot take any team for granted.

However, it should be said that two of the three teams that dealt the Bolts losses this conference are out — Ginebra and NLEX. 

Meralco head coach Norman Black likes to point out to their defense that has gotten them to where they are — the semifinals. It is the second time, they’re in the final four and in the same conference as last season although they were bounced from the competition by Rain or Shine in three straight.

As far as Black is concerned, that is ancient history. This is a new team despite some remnants from last season. Furthermore, they have given a better account of themselves as they have held on to the top spot of the league standings all conference long. That says something about their overall game and their confidence.

They have a better import in double double machine, Arinze Onuaku. Plus, they’ve got some pretty good rookies in Baser Amer and Chris Newsome. 

They’ve got some championship pedigree. Cliff Hodge won a bunch with NLEX in the D-League. Amer and Anjo Caram won a lot with San Beda. Jimmy Alapag and Jared Dillinger played huge parts in those great TNT squads of the past few years. Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Ryan Buenafe won a lot while in Ateneo. Reynel Hugnatan was an integral part of some Alaska Aces title teams.

Smart players. Winners who know how to win. The trick now is to convert that into something positive for Meralco.

They’re not yet there but they are definitely on the highway leading to that. 

The win over NLEX in the quarterfinals? For a while there it looked like the Road Warriors were going to extend the series to a win-or-go-home situation. After Simon Enciso hit a triple from halfcourt, it seemed like the floodgates opened for NLEX. They were literally firing on all cylinders. 

Then Meralco came back. They hit some treys of their own and drove hard to the basket. They hit some big foul shots as well. They never panicked and they came back from a huge deficit.

On the opposite end, they forced NLEX’s jumping jack of an import in Al Thornton to throw up an wild shot that you only see in the playground unless your name is Calvin Abueva. 

When NLEX sorely needed a triple, they drew blanks.

Dillnger and Hodge supplied the energy. Along with Newsome, they drove hard at the basket. They grabbed some key offensive rebounds and reset the shot clock milking away precious time from NLEX.

And that formula for winning — Onuaku’s double double (13 points and 11 rebounds) plus local support (Hodge, Hugnatan, Newsome, and Dillinger each scored more than 10 points) equals a win. Make it a big win. 

But they have merely repeated their feat from last season. For that to be ancient history, they need to advance. 

Who knows here the Bolts will go from here.

All I know is some folks are itching to add some new panels to those pictures that line their canteen wall.