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, October 9, 2017

My thoughts about Ateneo’s win over DLSU

My thoughts about Ateneo’s win over DLSU
by rick olivares pic by joseph nocos

With that big win, 76-75, over La Salle, it is official… the Ateneo Blue Eagles are a threat to unseat the Green Archers from their throne. One game does not a championship make and the second round has yet to be played and anything can happen from here on. But to sum up what can be gleaned from the game – at least for Ateneo’s side – is it is a character-defining game for this team of young Blue Eagles.

It’s a good win to celebrate even if it could have gone either way when the Blue Eagles lost the lead. It should boost their confidence because they rose to the challenge of the best college basketball team in the land (yes, they still are until they are unseated).

As with every match, there is something to celebrate and learn from.

Here are some observations.

I have said that as long as Chibueze Ikeh plays well, then Ateneo has a chance of beating La Salle (and everyone).
Ben Mbala might have finished with better stats, but Ikeh was all right. You might consider his production of 2 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block as pedestrian but look here – zero turnovers.

And in those last few minutes of play, he grabbed a rebound from Mbala and then when double teamed, he kept his head and made a proper outlet pass. Then he hit two free throws to tie the game at 73-all. While I am not crazy that Mbala was able to split the defense in their final attempt, Ikeh didn’t foul and Mbala stumbled and lost the ball (he should have even been called for an offensive foul).

Let me backtrack to those free throws. Sure, Matt Nieto missed a free throw but when it mattered most, he nailed the two marginal free throws. Ateneo was 5-6 in the last few minutes of play and 11-14 for the game. La Salle on the other hand was an atrocious 5-13 (as surprise because they are the top free throw shooting squad with Ateneo just a few percentage points away). However, in fairness, they were 3-4 in the final quarter.

The top defensive team came away with two stops in the endgame.
That was some smart play by Matt Nieto in the endgame to tip the ball to Ateneo’s side of the court. Furthermore, the help provided by Gian Mamuyac was solid and the pressure allowed Ateneo to secure the ball and for Matt to hit the game-winning free throws.

Then the Blue Eagles forced Mbala to a bad shot that closed out the game.

Look at the other defensive stats:
Ateneo held La Salle to 13 fourth quarter points; the fewest they have scored this season (the previous low was 15 yet they beat Adamson).
Ateneo had 10 steals to La Salle’s 4.
Ateneo forced La Salle into 20 turnovers.
Ateneo had a slight edge in blocks 3-2.
Mbala was held to 18 points. That’s about 15 off his average.

Ateneo doesn’t rate too highly in many statistical categories but I suspect the one they care for is their defensive ranking. They are tops.

Matt Nieto has really picked up his game.
He has played very well in the past four matches. He has been clutch in his scoring and in his defense. Why is he hitting his jump shot better? Check out the spin on the ball.

Speaking of clutch, here are Ateneo’s best fourth quarter performers:
Ravena – 4.7 points
Matt Nieto - 3.7 points
Raffy Verano – 2.4
Mike Nieto – 2.1 points
Chibueze Ikeh – 1.7 points
Isaac Go – 1.7 points

Matt is right in there in the endgame. As much as he has worked hard in the off-season, I think that having another quality point guard in Tyler Tio has really challenged him to play better.

As for Tyler, this is his learning curve. Watch out for him in the second round and of course, next season.

The overall team effort.
And while Coach Tab Baldwin went to a shorter rotation, everyone he sent in scored and contributed to the overall effort. We didn’t get Thirdy Ravena’s best or even Vince Tolentino’s but they helped out when they could.

Observations, musings, and things to learn from this match
To balance the perimeter and inside baskets. For a while there, we simply ran out of ideas and were just bombing from the outside. Yet the crucial baskets all came inside.

La Salle scored 44 points inside to Ateneo’s 30. While the Blue Eagles outscored the Green Archers 35-26 from the outside, by game’s end, that was somewhat immaterial as everyone took the game inside.

Ateneo’s interior defense during the second and third frame was atrocious. It looked like a lay-up line for La Salle. I know they were throwing double and triple teams at Mbala. Sometimes the others were late to rotate out. Mike Nieto is one of the best at recognizing where the kick out is going and I thought he made a great challenge late in the game.

Now for much of the first round, Ateneo was killing foes off the offensive boards and second chance points. In this game, they were oft flat-footed. La Salle was bringing the defenders too far out for them go back inside and rebound. And sometimes, we’d lose out on those boards because we’d get bullied inside.

I always wonder why the Blue Eagles tumble a lot. Are the other guys stronger?

That ill-fated shot by Thirdy Ravena where he drove into traffic and attracted a crowd reminded me of when Jeron Teng snuffed that shot by Aaron Black in last year’s finals. In transition or during a faster pace in the game, the drive then spin works. On a half court set, and driving straight at Mbala? He instantly drew a crowd and got swatted.

I remember telling him that teams had wizened up to that spin in the lane. He can get it done when the defense isn’t set. I am sure Thirdy will learn from this.

There were moments when I felt that the some of the Blue Eagles were backing down from La Salle’s challenge. They didn’t go after certain loose balls and were hesitant on closing down attacks that ultimately led to baskets if not three-point plays. On a number of occasions, they were caught flat-footed and before they knew it their man was a step or two ahead.

Ateneo has done well to manage leads. Except in this game. But they never gave up. The fought back when La Salle stepped up the pressure. When they’re up, they should continue to play that methodical brand of game instead of trying for that knockout punch.


  1. My biggest criticism of Ikeh last season was that he had a case of "butter fingers". Whenever he grabs the ball, expect it to slip out of his hands soon after.

    The fact that he can have a zero-turnover game (despite being given a lot of minutes) in a major game like this shows how much he has moved away from that. The center spot for the Blue Eagles may still be shallow, but at least the guys the team has there are now all reliable players.

  2. What's the difference Rick between Long-Latere (which NB used before and was promptly penalized for) and Mbala-Tratter now? Granted that one is an import and the other is Fil-am?

    1. Long and Laterre are both foreigners.

    2. gets. sinu ba naman mag a-akala na foreigner din pala si Laterre. At Fil-am itong si Tratter lol. Parehong di mukha.

  3. This season will be about deep roster or brillant coaching!

    All comments and behavior seems to be congratulating Tab...

    We deserve this Win.

  4. "With that big win, 76-75, over La Salle, it is official… the Ateneo Blue Eagles are a threat to unseat the Green Archers from their throne."

    I'm not so sure about that. If anything, I think this game should be a cause for concern going forward. With Melecio not playing, Ateneo was a 6-point favorite to win. Instead, they only won by 1 in a match that really could've gone either way. Throw in the fact that La Salle is basically still in "training camp" mode and I think you can make a strong case that La Salle should be favored in all future matchups--including the Finals.

    1. Well, you know how to take things out of context. Did you even read the second paragraph? And so you know, we are 2-0 vs DLSU )(including Filoil); both that went to the final second of play.

    2. Melecio, for sure he could have helped DLSU! Lets see when he plays in the next round...

      It is one thing for a coach to plan an offensive play and make it, but it is very impressive, awesome in fact, for a coach to plan a defensive play and make it happen...

      I maintain my stand, this season will be about Brillant Coaching vs Deep Rosters...

      Win or lose, I dont want to identify myself with a deep roster, whatever school may have one.

      It could be shameful...

      The season is far from over, and every team is in a learning mode, the Blue Eagles most especially in academics...

    3. @anon who just added perhaps Melecio's average in the equation to come up with a 6 point differential. You should know if you are a rabid fan of the rivalry, that everytime these 2 meet, you throw out all the books and numbers. Right?
      That double digit lead at the start was the cushion, enough to parry the expected onslaught. In the end a w is a w made more 'awesome' by a resilient adjustment.

      Also go figure these: dlsu in its first 2 games (without the mvp import) was averaging +100. So everyone said that when mbala comes back, they will shoot in the 120's (again just by adding Mbala's average). But instead it dipped; Mbala will necessarily change their offensive priorities. Other guys will suffer with their output.
      By the same token, had Melecio played, you think guys like Jolo Go would step up big time like he did? He probably would have seen less minutes too. And you could be sure that Melecio would have been a marked man.
      Also, last year, in the first round, Teng didn't play yet Ateneo lost.
      And you were already singing sweep in the second round with Teng playing then. 14-0 here we go. But what happened? Throw those numbers I tell you. You didn't get the sweep and stepladder.
      So Melecio or not this season, that W is a W that makes a sweep STILL possible.
      Instead, your concern should be for your camp (in training still lol): the Coach's inability to adjust in-game, much less at crunchtime. And the adage (cliche even) of 'D wins games' not being a premium and just 'shoot it out in the not so ok coral' seems more inmportant. Oh one more, also despite the presence of Tratter and Mbala in the last 7 minutes, you still did not pull it through. Those should be alarming.

  5. HI. Not to be anonymous, I'm Ward Luarca, HS batch '69-'73. I mentioned more than a week ago to my classmate, Joey Pengson, erstwhile Alumni association president and former basketball Varsity team member, that if we can't keep our lead over La Salle towards end of game (say, last 2 minutes), but are able to keep La Salle's lead to no more than 2 possessions, Ateneo will win. Why? Because Tab Baldwin can think up tactical adjustments on his toes, on the spot. (Even as his system is so in place, and the members are well-disciplined to follow it.) Aldin Ayo, on the other hand, is an excellent pre-season trainer and strategist, but a mediocre crunchtime tactician. He is no match to Baldwin, as proved in yesterday's game. Baldwin anticipated and adjusted in the last 9 seconds of the game. It's the coaching and the system. And the boys delivered with resolve and confidence.

    1. sir by any chance are you the ward luarca from the movie Batch 81? :)

  6. Watch out for ADU...

    sana lang ang naalala niya ay yun kay Chia but then again at 4 yo di pa ni prep si Nieto noon lol. pero pretty sure sinama na yan sa games ng mga magulang noon pero bata pa para maalala.

    Mas maganda yon kay Chia kase 1. was done on the floor, not on the line, 2. paved the way for ue's ouster and into the finals, 3. and eventually prevent dlsu's 5 peat. phew. kung ue pumasok sa finals noon, yap or no yap, chalk up 5 peat sa la salle (just like 2007 finals).
    Yon kay Kramer, vs ust finals, we went on to lose that one in Pido's rookie year.btw, that's the only title of ust in this millenium so far, and try as they mightly did with the very first uaap mvp material import (like currently mbala), they just fell short to prevent Ateneo's (and Uaap's) first and only (so far but will take ages to break) legit 5-peat. inb4uedid7.