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, October 22, 2017

At 10-0, for the Ateneo Blue Eagles... their challenges.

The challenges of being undefeated
by rick olivares

The challenges just get tougher for the Ateneo Blue Eagles who now have a target painted on their back.

For the second straight game, the Blue Eagles had to battle back from a deficit to pull out a win in the fourth period for a 70-59 victory over the Far Eastern University Tamaraws. The victory was their tenth in a row and Ateneo remains the only unbeaten side in the ongoing UAAP Men’s Basketball tournament.

I thought that the Tamaraws made their shots early in the game while Ateneo struggled to find the bottom of the net. They shot 25% in the first quarter while FEU hit 47% of their attempts. Even from the free throw line, Ateneo was miserable – 25% (1-4).

Ateneo played better in the second period but FEU still held on to the lead with their late game finishing. And it was the two former Blue Eagles in Arvin Tolentino and Hubert Cani who were showing the way for the Tamaraws.

The Blue Eagles finally found their groove in the fourth quarter with a bit of déjà vu. This time it was sophomore Raffy Verano who reprised the inspiration that Gian Mamuyac gave against National University – by attacking inside. Verano, who has settled down in the past few games after a rather slow start, has always been a gutsy player. He does the little things from setting screens, taking charges, battling for rebounds, or even raiding the passing lanes.

This time around, he drove hard and beat Prince Orizu by a whisker. He scored eight big points in the final 10 minutes of play. And that carved up some space for Matt Nieto who drilled a huge triple.

Ateneo cranked up the defense when it mattered the most (4th period) by winning the battle of the boards, 16-9; pilfering the ball, 2-1; and protecting the rim, 2-0 blocks. You have to appreciate the two blocks on Ron Dennison – one by Thirdy Ravena and the other by Gian Mamuyac. Dennison had a lay-up but he got rejected.

Prince Orizu was a non-factor in that span (no points and no rebounds) while Tolentino and Cani were blanked.

Winning the battle of the boards was crucial as Ateneo parlayed that into a 4-0 advantage in second chance points. Both squads turned the ball over thrice each but Ateneo came away with a precious 2 points to none in turnover points. And from the line, they shot 8-9 while FEU was 3-6.

If the wins over La Salle, National University, and Adamson were character-defining ones as they were close ones, this one is no different and adds to the end game poise. As part of that endgame poise is the performance of point guard Matt Nieto, who over the course of the season, has become clutch.

Clearly, the burden of carrying a streak is evident. The play at times has been sloppy and not due to the defense. Furthermore, teams are defending players like Anton Asistio better and are going at Chibueze Ikeh to test him further. As good as they are at 10-0, I still hear some of the basketball cognoscenti doubt them. Perhaps it is because they didn’t fare well in the pre-season and because they feel that La Salle is only hitting its stride.

You have to appreciate how head coach Tab Baldwin deconstructed this team and reconfigured it to his basketball philosophies. Watching from afar, he broke conventional wisdom in how Ateneo teams prepared before the season. With the changes in the calendar of games, that necessitated further change. Clearly, the five-peat days are long over.

As to Ateneo’s brand of play -- it’s pretty impressive. And when I think of it…. these Blue Eagles play close to his old national squad, New Zealand plays (minus their athletic stretch forwards and centers). Unselfish team ball that is basketball eye candy and with anyone on any given day capable of lighting it up.

There’s no telling where the boys in blue will end up. La Salle, despite sporting two losses in 10 matches, is still the favorite to win it all unless Ateneo can take it from them. And the way things are going, it looks like the two will meet once more… in the finals.


  1. It was a tough week for the Blue Eagles:

    Sunday - DSLU

    Wednesday - ADU

    Saturday - FEU

    All of whom are tough competitors and FINAL 4 Contenders.

    Looking ahead, watch out for UE. We didnt have an easy time with them. They will attack and attack and attack...

    Congratulations Blue Eagles!


  2. It's all good. At least I've seen the team's resilience. In the first round, they bliew away the opposition early (except dlsu). In the 3 games so far (except Adu), they came from behind.

  3. it's all good. While in the first roumd, Ateneo showed how to maintain the lead, here in the 2nd thus far? they have shown resilience-how to come from behind.

  4. At 10-0 worst case scenario for the BE would be a tie for 2-3 with AdU, that is if AdMU drops its remainimg games and AdU doesn't. One more win would assure Ateneo of the twice to beat. But ofc who doesn't want a sweep and a stepladder if you root for the Blue ones ^^