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, December 1, 2016

Ghostbusters: Ateneo defeats FEU to advance to the UAAP Finals

This appears in the Friday, December 2, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.

Ghostbusters: Ateneo defeats FEU to advance to the UAAP Finals
by rick olivares

For a while there, the ghosts of FEU Tamaraws past were in the house. Mico Roldan, Celino Cruz, and Arwind Santos to name a few might have not been there physically but they were there for their brethren in spirit. There was one, although he wasn’t exactly a ghost. He is a live bogeyman who goes by the name of Mac Belo.

The score stood at 62-58, Ateneo with 3:02 left to play.

FEU’s Monbert Arong drove in but was rejected by Thirdy Ravena. The Tamaraws’ stud power forward Raymar Jose got the loose ball and proceeded to post up Blue Eagle forward Vince Tolentino. The latter was whistled for a foul sending Jose to the free throw line. It was a dubious foul but there’s no going back on the call. 62-60, Ateneo.

In the next play, Ravena was whistled for stepping. Arong scored in the next play to draw level.

The specter of another FEU victory, and overhauling the twice-to-beat disadvantage, appeared.

Ravena hit two free throws to re-take the lead then came another contentious call. After a scramble on the sidelines, the ball went off a FEU player but they mysteriously were allowed to retain possession. In the next play, FEU’s Ron Dennison equalized again. Thirty-seven ticks.

Both teams had a chance to win it in regulation but they didn’t. Then in overtime, Isaac Go, who went out at the 3:45 mark of the extension after bloodying his nose, pulled a Willis Reed. The score remained unchanged at 66-all.

Tab Baldwin to Go: Is your nose broken?
Go: No.
Baldwin: Then get back in there.
Go: I’ll just clean up my nose.

Tolentino tacked on a free throw after which Dennison scored again to give FEU a 68-67 lead with 2:37 left.

In Ateneo’s next offensive, Matt Nieto missed a jumper but Go hauled down the offensive board and put it back for the game’s final points.

Ateneo would have a chance to put it away but Ravena slipped. It could have been a costly slip but Dennison's lay-up – that could have been a game winner – came a split second too late.

And the Blue Eagles – with their new head coach, battered after losing so many players to academics, losing tough matches, seeing a couple of players go down to injury from Aaron Black to team captain GBoy Babilonia to injury – are in the finals against La Salle.

For now – because there will be many more years of intense, glorious and agonizing battles with FEU – the ghosts of heartbreakers past have retreated.

These Tamaraws sure know how to take the fun out of things. Who can forget Mico Roldan's last-second game winner in 2000 that overhauled Ateneo’s twice-to-beat advantage? That was the first year of the new Ateneo program and under first-year head coach Joe Lipa.

There was 2003 when Santos and company ended a dynasty before it could even be one. That ended Joel Banal’s time.

There was last season when Belo stuck in another game winner at death’s door. That ended Bo Perasol’s time in Ateneo and an era (because the last holdovers of the five-peat were there).

And there’s this year -- lost of bunch of players, a team stacked with rookies, sophomores, and juniors with few seniors. Ateneo lost Game One when they forgot to play the game that brought them to where they were. And this under a new head coach.

Because of the sheer difficulty of this season, title or no title, Tab Baldwin ought to be given a jersey number and have it retired right away.

The game was won on pure grit. They saw Adrian Wong and Isaac Go leave the game for a bit because of injuries but yet they came back. And because they pulled it off in spite of the horrendous officiating.

When you look at these Ateneo-FEU matches, the second round blowout is the aberration. These matches are usual close encounters of the heart-stopping kind.

It’s hard to make sense of advantages. One team scores more inside points while the other makes up for it in perimeter points so they kind of even out. One team has more rebounds or has more blocks. What’s the difference then?

The fourth quarter free throws.

First Round
Game One
Game Two
7-11 64%
2-2 100%
1-2 50%
1-2 50%
13-17 76%

The team that went to the line more often in the pay-off period and hit more freebies won the match.

And there’s George Isaac Go who pulled off a Willis Reed with his return to the court. And he did score the winning offensive putback!

The Big Fella’s ascent is remarkable. He has gone from the far end of the bench to starter (he started two matches this season). And when you consider the relative ineffectiveness of the other bigs (not including Vince Tolentino who has played great as well) and the huge loss of GBoy Babilonia,

First Round

Since then

For Game Two, Go compiled 12 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks versus zero turnovers and gave up only 1 foul.

And as a result, the Blue Eagles came away with one of the biggest triumphs ever in its storied history.

So now they are back in the finals against the rampaging La Salle Green Archers who are massively favored.

I might have predicted an Ateneo-La Salle Finals clash but for the most part, they have overachieved. Making it this far is already a bonus. If they can nick Game One from La Salle there’s no telling what can happen.

The Final Four triumph is the best thing to happen to them since the end of the five-peat because they found their right footing in the most difficult of times. And how! For the nonce, they expunged the ghosts of playoff failures against FEU ghosts of past.

And this… this will propel them towards next season and beyond.


  1. To my mind, those pre-5-peat ghosts (I was about to say pre-coach NB, but I recalled, NB had one of his playoffs losses at the hands of Feu and a twice to beat at that!), all semis, were more than expunged during the 5-peat when Ateneo faced Feu twice in a span of 5 years and won both in the FINALS. The sweetest was the third-peat when Ateneo was not given a ghost, pun intended, of a chance when they lost both elims to the Tams prior to the championship games. But Buenafe said it aptly "Makakatikim din mga tiga Morayta" So when the smoke cleared after the dagger trey which had a chance of going in at just 19% maybe less, the guy responsible had only three fingers up in the air for three points and three-peat! Then their next finals meeting (the next year, when Feu upset Adu which deserved to be in the finals because it was the only team which blemished Ateneo's otherwise clean sweep) was all academic; it was over before the series even started.

  2. 2000 La Salle
    2001 La Salle
    2002 Ateneo
    2003 Feu
    2004 Feu
    2005 Feu
    2006 Ust
    2007 La Salle
    2008 Ateneo
    2009 Ateneo
    2010 Ateneo
    2011 Ateneo
    2012 Ateneo (6)
    2013 La Salle (4)
    2014 Nu
    2015 Feu (4)

    Those three schools accounted for 14 titles in the last 16 years.

    One will become 5 or 7. Hmmm, I'd say 7 in 3 games ala first in the millenium in 3 also in 02. OBF!