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.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Looking at Ateneo’s win over DLSU in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup

Looking at Ateneo’s win over DLSU in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup
by rick olivares

The Ateneo Blue Eagles returned to action after close to a three-week lay-off (due to final schooling commitments and a week-long boot camp/team building session) and yet managed to defeat La Salle 80-78 last Sunday in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup.

The win gave Ateneo a 3-2 record while the defending tournament champions dropped to 4-3 and are on the brink of not advancing to the quarterfinals round for the first time in the 11-year history of the competition.

While it is a pre-season game and the UAAP is still several months away, the game is a good barometer of how both teams will battle each other.

The game can be distilled into a couple of frank post-match quotes from second year Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin.

“It’s the pre-season, it’s the summer league. It’s nice to play well in patches but there’s a lot of work to do.”

The Blue Eagles got off to a good start and repeatedly held the Green Archers at bay. When La Salle charged back into the game, they replied with some big shots. Turnovers from Matt Nieto, Tyler Tio, and Raffy Verano plus to defensive boners by Juwan White in recklessly challenging three-point attempts allowed the Green Archers to stay within striking distance. Post-match, Baldwin harped about the quality of the passes and maintaining composure that could spell the difference when battling a squad as good as La Salle.

“We don’t want to rely on big shots to win games but it’s nice that when you really need them one goes down for you.”

Ateneo’s three-point shooting and those big fourth period shots allowed them to somewhat buck their turnovers and Ben Mbala’s power inside game. The boys in white hit 10 threes to La Salle’s three.

Mike Nieto drilled two triples in the fourth period while Juwan White and Thirdy Ravena hit one each. The latter’s shot was a four-point play with 9.2 seconds left to give Ateneo a 77-74 lead (after he hit the free throw).

Let’s break down that play that led to the Ravena triple.

Players on the court for Ateneo: Isaac Go, Raffy Verano, Juwan White, Thirdy Ravena, and Tyler Tio.
Isaac Go was one of the big revelations of last season where he went from an awkward and goofy tall guy to a center with potential. I must admit that when I was watching him play for Xavier years ago, I wasn’t too impressed. But since last season, he’s come a long way. He scored four points to go with four boards but three of the latter came off the offensive glass.

Raffy Verano is a tough guy. Must lead the team in floor burns. A future team captain. I expect bigger things from him in his sophomore year. Look at his contributions – 10 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and one huge steal to go with one turnover (also in the dying minutes of the game). The kid is getting better.

Juwan White. Speaking of getting better. Is White the answer to FEU’s RJ Ramirez and NU’s Ron Lastimosa? An athletic beast who can be a game changer? Ramirez looks more polished while Lastimosa has to get more minutes. White even if he committed two fourth period boners made up for them in a big way. He’s learning. And I expect him to play a big role come the UAAP season.

Thirdy Ravena. Time to live up to that big tag that comes along with the surname. Has teased for years with potential. This is the year.

Tyler Tio. With Adrian Wong out, Tyler helps out Matt Nieto with ball handling and distribution. What I like about him is his steadiness and headiness.

All five on the floor can hit the three or outside shot. Four of them like to crash the boards.

I was actually surprised that Mike Nieto wasn’t in on the play as he hit two triples earlier. He would draw attention from La Salle’s defenders leaving others open. But Tio made the smart drive that drew three defenders before passing to Ravena for the crucial four-point play.

Players on the court for La Salle: Ben Mbala, Leonard Santillan, Ricci Rivero, Aljun Melecio, and Andrei Caracut.

What has not been said about Mbala? The man is a game changer. But he can only do so much.

Santillan is showing why La Salle pried him away from National University. Santillan scored seven points (including a big basket in the clutch off a nakaw play) and hauled down 11 rebounds. Along with Joshua Gonzales who also transferred from UE (while Ramil Tero left St. Clare College for NU after which he transferred to La Salle), Santillan will become an important player in Aldin Ayo’s rotation.

Ricci Rivero will become an important player for La Salle this season. His cracking the starting line-up says a lot. With more experience he’ll become better. Has his pocket picked by Verano and then he fouled Ravena on that fateful play. He’ll learn. But what a talent.

Aljun Melecio. Hands of gold. When he has the ball, he’s such a frightening player. Has a tougher time defensively but that’s why Mbala’s there.

Andrei Caracut. His recruitment saw Matt Salem depart the team. Look for him to get more minutes this season.

The Green Archers had a more mobile and athletic team out there.

Go was able to seal off MBala for a couple of seconds and that allowed Tio a chance to drive to the basket. Rivero, who was guarding Ravena on the left arc nearly poked the ball away from Tio who also attracted the attention of Santillan and Mbala. Credit must be given to Tio for recognizing the open Ravena. Rivero was a split second late for the challenge and fouled Ravena.

It was a close game and while it can be somewhat of a gauge it sure isn’t by a country mile. La Salle was missing the injured Prince Rivero and Kib Montalbo while Ateneo was rusty. Nevertheless, Ateneo should have garnered a bigger margin of victory were it not for the late turnovers. But that is why you play the pre-season – to get better.

Lessons for Ateneo to learn?
Rebound better. DLSU killed Ateneo on the boards with a 46-39 advantage while scoring 12 second chance points to the Blue Eagles’ measly three.

Make better passes and to stop pulling up their dribble close to where they can be double team.

Ateneo needs to do a better job of guarding that baseline inbound play where La Salle scored two crucial buckets.

“Any time you can get a win over those guys is good.”
Oh, yeah.

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