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.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Game analysis: On Ateneo’s 83-71 win over DLSU

This appears in the Monday, November 7, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.

On Ateneo’s 83-71 win over DLSU
by rick olivares

People talk about that alley-oop dunk by Ben Mbala as the dunk heard around the league. Well, the Ateneo Blue Eagles responded with the win heard around the country via a huge 83-71 win over La Salle to put a stain on the Green Archers’ win-loss slate.

The blue and white might not win it this year as the green and white are still heavily favored but as it is with the rivalry, a win is a like a championship win and it does prevent this juggernaut from sweeping the league.

This win will rank among the biggest by Ateneo against its nemesis but this one is special given the relative strength and chances of winning a title for either side. It did remind me of that 80-55 triumph over DLSU in the second round of the 1996 season where the Blue Eagles rained 16 triples on the Green Archers. It reminded me of 2002 where La Salle was gunning for an elimination round sweep.

Wherever this season will end for Ateneo, it will be also remembered for this win in spite of the galling losses to Adamson and UP.

My thoughts about the win…

When the Blue Eagles played the Green Archers in the semi-finals of the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup this past summer, it was a somewhat a different affair as compared to the elimination round battle that was a massacre by La Salle. During the semis, Ateneo played tough basketball. A departure from their normally finesse game. They frustrated Mbala, crashed the boards, attacked the basket, and were less susceptible to the press. They crumbled in the second half as La Salle moved the ball around a lot better.

Immediately after the match, I sidled up to the coaching staff and one of them remarked, “Now we know what to expect and how to play them.”

That was why after the first round of Season 79, I was very much disappointed at how Ateneo played. Like they didn’t learn anything. In this second round tussle, they did what I hoped they would (and I have mentioned it time and again in my writings this season).

They played uptempo as opposed to the silly walk-it up half court set. There were times when they caught La Salle napping. Every chance they got they ran.

La Salle

Furthermore, I think La Salle was surprised by the pace as the Blue Eagle guards would attack the lane rather than pull up. The willingness to drive inside saw La Salle collapse and leave the shooters open.

La Salle
Inside Points
Perimeter points
Three-point shooting

That sequence in the second half where they grabbed three or four offensive boards with Isaac Go scoring on a putback underscored that willingness to mix it up and take the fight to DLSU.

The inside game generally translates into higher percentage shots. And Ateneo hit a whopping 51% of their field goals while La Salle only hit 29% of their shots.

The ball movement was certainly much better and resulted in a 20-10 advantage in assists.

I previously also mentioned that if Ateneo is to win (not only against La Salle), they will need Aaron Black and Thirdy Ravena to play well. Aaron (16 points and 7 rebounds) missed the first round meeting and he sure made up for it by hitting big shots and attacking the interior. Thirdy (4 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists) played big too.

As good as the offense was, it was on the defensive end where the game was won.

They gave MBala different looks. Single coverage when he is up high or around the elbows. Double team once in a while when is down the blocks. Show so he might pass the ball rather than attack.

But aside from Mbala, the Blue Eagles fought to stay in front of their man or stay in-step. That was how Mike Nieto got that early block on Jeron Teng, Aaron Black with his rejection on Kib Montalbo, and Isaac Go getting a hand on an Mbala shot. La Salle played them physical. They tried to muscle their way in or hook their way around. There were times when the Blue Eagles fell from cheap shots but they generally got back up right away to rejoin the fight.

Ateneo blocked four shots to La Salle’s two.

I previously mentioned that for Ateneo to have a fighting chance to defeat La Salle, Chibueze Ikeh has to play well. He was a pain to watch in this match as he has been all season long. Ateneo got away with Isaac Go (who has been superb of late and finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block), Vince Tolentino, and GBoy Babilonia sacrificing themselves inside against the duo of Mbala and Abu Tratter. It might not happen again. Ikeh has to play well if they want to build on this.

More to the D, Ateneo gave La Salle a little taste of their own medicine with a mini-press of their own. They raided the passing lanes. And they crashed the boards. The difference in steals 8-11 was in favor of DLSU. I expect that high number for the Green Archers but Ateneo got eight against them. That’s pretty good.

To summarize it, Ateneo’s pace and outworking La Salle was what won the game for them.

Ateneo shouldn’t feel too giddy about this win. As I previously mentioned the 1996 second round win versus La Salle, they failed to build on that as they crumbled after. There is still work to be done.

As for La Salle, there’s a bright side. The burden of the sweep is over. The loss will make them focus again and somewhat play a little more relaxed. No sweep means there will be no extended period of rest while waiting for everyone to slug it out. That means there will be no rust and less chances of another ambush.

The Green Archers could see them as a mere bump in the road. Despite the loss, they are still massive favorites to win it all. That does not change. Sure the outcome versus FEU leaves them more anxious. But people will cross that bridge when the time comes.

However, once more, wherever the Blue Eagles end up after this season, denying La Salle a sweep and history, is very satisfying and something to build upon for the future.


  1. La Salle would rather lose in an elims game than go through what their lady archers had traumatically the hands of Ateneo LE no less too. It could have happened seeing as the stepladder is just a best of 3 as opposed to the volleyball scenario where ALE needed 3 wins! Mas nakakahiya yon pag nangyari sa basketball din lol because they have an MVP of an import. But sadly (for them) Big Ben turned from Bahala ako to Bahala na moves when he imploded. Mas matalino pa rin talaga si Ikeh lol

  2. As much as Ikeh is under-performing, do you agree with the game commentators that he did a good job getting under Mbala's skin? Looks to be that Mbala was most annoyed with Ikeh during the game.