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.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Juan Gomez De Liaño leads UP to BBI win vs MLQU

Juan Gomez De Liaño leads UP to BBI win vs MLQU
by rick olivares

Juan Gomez De Liaño rescued a Ricci Rivero-less University of the Philippines Fighting Marrons Team B with an end-game explosion to steer his side to an 88-75 win in the BBI tournament at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center.

With the MLQU Stallions breathing down UP’s necks, 78-70, time down to 4:10 in the final frame, Gomez De Liaño, playing his first Team B match in the tourney, scored the Fighting Maroons’ next eight points and assisted Cameroonian center Bruel Kamga on his twinner. The super sophomore also rejected Ryan Sual’s attempt as MLQU mustered only two points in that span.

UP built a 73-60 lead by third quarter’s end, but saw MLQU battle back with a 10-0 run to start the fourth period. Then came Gomez De Liaño’s heroics. 

The Fighting Maroons ruled the boards and scored 20 second chance points and a whopping 52 points inside the paint. Yet for their 52-43 advantage in rebounds, the Stallions were able to keep pace by out running UP to the tune of 29-13 in fastbreak points. 

Gomez De Liaño led with 22 points while adding eight assists and six rebounds. His presence gave the other UP starters a lot of space to operate and for the first time this tournament saw a more balanced scoring spree for their team. Felix Jaboneta added 14 points while Kamga finished with 12 points and seven boards. Jayboy Gob and Jaggie Gregorio each added nine points.

For MLQU, it was all Sual who topscored with 30 points while center Sam Peralta chipped in 14 markers and seven caroms. 

The BBI tourney is a showcase for collegiate Team B squads filled with UAAP and NCAA Team A hopefuls. 

UAAP Women’s Volleyball: The NU Lady Bulldogs surprise, UST and Ateneo rise

UAAP Women’s Volleyball: The NU Lady Bulldogs surprise, UST and Ateneo rise
by rick olivares

If we can crib legendary American statesman Benjamin Franklin’s statement about death and taxes being only the two sure things in life, we can add La Salle women’s volleyball to the mix.

The Lady Spikers have been the class of collegiate women’s volleyball for over a decade now. They are a machine where the parts change but yet, they keep on rolling. While it was an error-filled game with Adamson, they still had enough to take the Lady Falcons down in three sets. 

They – expectedly if I may say so – are the sole undefeated team this early. And they are looking more and more like a team that is ready to annex their fourth straight title; a feat they have not yet accomplished. As for the rest of the field… now this is something else.

Let’s count the ways after this topsy-turvy weekend.

We have to start with the National University Lady Bulldogs’ win over UE.
This is the big head shaker. NU lined up 11 players at the start of the season then in their very first game lost starting setter Joyme Cagande to a season-ending injury. Three of their current players – Audrey Paran, Rose Doria, and Joni Chavez -- were in uniform last season. And they beat UE with their veterans in three sets!

Chavez played libero in the last two years and with Cagande out, she’s now the playmaker and she did much better than UE counterpart Laiza Bendong. Ivy Lacsina led the team in scoring with 18 while Princess Robles managed nine in spite of somewhat struggling. 

This says a lot about both teams. NU with its rookies coming up from multi-titled teams have a winner’s mentality while UE has talent but not that mental fortitude to get them over the hump. 

The Golden Tigresses make a huge statement.
What a win! And it sends UST soaring and highly-fancied UP crashing down to earth. UST’s loss to Ateneo mid-week woke them up. And now you can actually that head coach Kung-Fu Reyes has a team to really contend. He has weapons in the middle (Minela Alessandrini and rookie Kecelyn Galdones out of UE high) and the wings in Eya Laure and Sisi Rondina. There’s capable support in Mafe Galanza, Alina Bicar, and Dimdim Pacres. 

With other steady contributions, now Rondina doesn’t need to over-exert herself. The other options make this squad deadly. 

The Golden Tigresses could have folded after losing the first set and holding fast in the second. Then they gained their confidence and played better. This is a feel-good win for UST.

The Ateneo Lady Eagles are revving up.
Remember the quote from head coach Oliver Almadro about the team playing their worst in the opening day loss to La Salle and their best still to come? You think he was lying?

Two huge wins over teams with talent and contenders. The mid-week win over UST and now a five-setter against FEU. This is like telling them that any confidence they gained from the final four loss last year is precisely that – last year. 

I like Kat Tolentino finally leading this team and Jules Samonte regaining her confidence after losing her starting slot in the pre-season. Samonte will get better as the season progresses and I suspect she will play a huge part in what they want to achieve. Maddie Madayag has played well in two straight matches. However, right now, it is all about consistency from all quarters perhaps save for Tolentino. The scoring and defending from the middle is still spotty. Imagine if Bea De Leon can put up big numbers that would really help this team. But they need more options from the wings. 

Nevertheless, this is a huge win that gives them a lot of confidence.

Adamson has the talent to compete. At this point, I think for Coach Airess Padda, her squad needs that winner’s mentality. That is the same boat that UE finds itself in. 

As for UP, it would be interesting to see how they bounce back from this loss.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Leonard Santillan: Making that adjustment

Leonard Santillan: Making that adjustment
by rick olivares

For Leonard “Santi” Santillan, life is all about making adjustments.

After spending two seasons with the University of Visayas in his native Cebu (he hails from Lapu Lapu City), Santi transferred to De La Salle University where for two seasons, he gained prominence for his strong and heady play inside the shaded lane.

Now, he is playing 3x3 ball with the Bataan Risers alongside three former UAAP foes in Adamson’s Sean Manganti, Ateneo’s Anton Asistio, and University of the East’s Alvin Pasaol.

There is the adjustment in terms of style of play as 3x3 ball is different if not faster-paced, and his new teammates.

“Nung dumating ako sa La Salle, na-home sick ako ng grabe,” recalled Santillan. “Dumating sa point na gusto ko na umuwi. Kaso inisip ko yung big picture na para sa future koi to kaya nagsumikap ako.”

Having hurdled that initial challenge, Santi is literally having a ball right now. 3x3 ball included. 

“Masaya kasama rito at lalo na sa mga bagong teamamtes ko,” he said referring to his Risers 3x3 teammates. “Malaking tulong din na meron kapwa Bisaya (Pasaol) rito.”

“Nakalaban ko silang lahat at malaki respeto ko sa kanilang lahat. Lalo na ngayon teammates ko sila at nakita ko yung work ethic nila.”

Coming over to the nation’s capital is also huge for Santillan because he got to meet up with one of his idols from Cebu in former PBA player Dondon Hontiveros who was on hand for the Chooks to Go 3x3 Pilipinas Leg 1 tourney at the SM Megamall. “Si Dondon kasi kilalang shooter and importante kasi na marami kang weapons at hindi lang sa loob ng lane. Importante meron kang shooting.”

And Santillan took the opportunity to shake Hontiveros’ hands hoping that some of his pistolero mojo would rub off on him. True enough, it was Santillan who buried the game winner during their second 3x3 match against the Bacoor City Strikers. And in the championship game against Grindhouse Kings Pasig, he knocked down big shots down the stretch from long range.

After the first leg championship was secured, a tired yet jubilant Santillan could not contain his excitement and joy. “Mahirap kalaban yung Pasig. Nung 3x3 pre-season wala yata silang talo. Pero kami? Adjust lang kahit malalaki rin sila. Ganoon lang naman ang buhay di ba? Adjust at laban.”

On to the next leg.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

6 international teams banner 12thNBTC National Finals

6 international teams banner 12thNBTC National Finals
by rick olivares

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The 12thseason of the Chooks to Go NBTC National Finals presented by SM promises to be the biggest staging for Philippine high school basketball’s biggest event.

A total of 105 cities – up from the high of 80 from last year -- from all over the archipelago including a record six international teams featuring Filipinos born overseas will take part in the National Finals from March 18-24 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Following the intense city championships, the winners will compete in the regional tournaments. From there, the 16 regional champions will join 10 NCR teams that will include the winner and first runner-up of the NCAA and UAAP tournaments as well as in the six international teams in the National Finals.

In this 12thNBTC National Finals, teams from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and one each from Toronto and Vancouver, Canada, including first-timer, Italy will participate. 

Last year, Fil-Americans Jalen Green – who competed for the USA in the Fiba Under-17 Championships – and Kihei Clark led the American team.

Aside from the National Finals, the entire week will find an assortment of pocket competitions from the annual high school All-Star Game, the dunk contest, the 3x3 tourney, and the Coaches Convention that is open to NBTC coaches as well as coaches from private and public high schools. 

The reigning NBTC National Champion is Nazareth School of National University. 

The 12thChooks to Go NBTC National Finals presented by SM is also sponsored by Darlington Exped Socks, Purefoods, Freego Jeans, Huawei, Gatorade, Go for Gold, and Epson.

Melencio grandson, Gilbert Lao’s son lead DLSZ & Ateneo to BBI wins

Melencio grandson, Gilbert Lao’s son lead DLSZ & Ateneo to BBI wins
by rick olivares

The sons of Philippine basketball stars continue to show their wares in the BBI tournament at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center in Quezon City.

Rhyle Melencio, the grandson of Philippine basketball great Rogelio “Tembong” Melencio, led De La Salle Zobel to a 73-64 win over club team, Grind Hoops.

The young Melencio led his team with a double double of 16 points and 13 rebounds. Teammate Nico Mulingtapang also scored 16 points with Christian Vergara and Sead Chang added 12 and 11 points respectively. 

Rhyle stands 6’1” and plays right handed as well as the combo guard position for the Junior Archers.

DLSZ likewise posted an early lead that they managed throughout the match. The Junior Archers pace the eight-team division with a 7-0 record.

Tembong Melencio is considered one of the Philippines’ best basketball players who was a part of two Fiba Aisa gold medal squads (1967 Seoul and 1973 Manila) as well the 1972 Olympic team that competed in Munich, Germany.

In other BBI Under-14 games, the Ateneo Blue Eaglets got the jump on their San Beda counterparts in the first period and steadily built a huge lead they never surrendered for an 80-59 win. Garrick Lao, the son of former PBA player Gilbert Lao stood tall for Ateneo as he tallied 17 points in the win. Jeremy Felix and Luigi De Leon added 12 points while Lebron Nieto, younger brother of Blue Eagles’ Matt and Mike Nieto bucked a subpar game with 10 rebounds, eight points, and five assists. 

San Beda’s Renzo Competente led his side with 16 points with teammate Carlos Cantorna adding 10 points and nine boards.

In other Under-14 action, club team Malabon defeated Kings Montessori School, 97-78, with Yeshua Espiritu tallying 19 points for the victors. 

Over at the Under-16 Division, the AMA Computer College Junior Titans crushed Sto. Niño, 78-50, behind Daryll Durante’s 14 points and nine rebounds.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

An efficient demolition: Bataan crushes Marikina for 21stwin

An efficient demolition: Bataan crushes Marikina for 21stwin
by rick olivares

With a little over two minutes to play, the Bataan mark of the fourth period, the Bataan Risers’ Pamboy Raymundo ditched his man with a crossover then fed a cutting Alfred Batino for an and-one, 79-61, against the home side, the Marikina Shoemasters.

Whatever was left of the massive crowd that filled the Marist Gym in Marikina – that hadn’t when Bataan led, 49-33, at the half – filled out. 

The Risers won, 81-64, their seventh straight for a 21-2 record that send Marikina to their fifth home loss in seven outings and an 8-15 record. 

That’s a team that quietly, and almost efficiently, is going about its business of pursuing a Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu’s Cup title. They are 6-1 when marching into opposing teams’ home courts, and a perfect 7-0 in road games (they are 8-1 at home at the Bataan Peoples’ Center); an indication of the Risers’ toughness in the face of adversity and hostile ground.

Case in point: with 22 seconds left in the second period, Batino was whistled for a traveling violation and Bataan leading 49-30. Batino hotly contested the call; a protest that took over a minute to pacify. The Marist Gym crowd, perhaps in need of a rallying point for their team that went down from the get-go, heckled Batino. 

Then the Shoemasters’ JC Po hit a triple off a feed by RJ Deles to whittle away three points from the deficit going into the half. And the crowd seemed a tad happy that they had the last laugh going into the break. 

But any notion that Mariqueños felt they were back in the game were quickly dashed at the onset of the third period when the Risers’ do-it-all forward Vince Tolentino scored six straight points driving right at the heart of Marikina’s defense in spite of the presence of rugged center Jondan Salvador who also scored two buckets in that span. 

Those three daredevil drives showed that Bataan had no fear of coming into another team’s home court and stealing the game. 

It was Gary David who got Bataan off to a hot start when he knocked down his first four shots – the first two for threes and the last two dead eye long two-point bombs – for a 16-6 lead.

The Yvan Ludovice started the second quarter by torching the nets for three straight triples – two with a hand on his face – for a 35-21 lead. 

Then came Tolentino’s early third quarter explosion that had Marikina once more reeling.

“That is what we have been trying to achieve,” pointed out Bataan head coach Jojo Lastimosa after the game. “We want everyone to step up and that anyone can lead us in scoring at any given time.”

And true enough, Marikina had no answer for that. When the Bataan starters got the lead, the second unit hiked it up. The third unit held the line then the starters got back in and continued to pummel the Shoemasters with the lead climbing to as high as 23 points.

Bataan shot 48% from the field to Marikina’s woeful 24% shooting. The Risers scored almost half their output from inside the paint, 42 to Marikina’s 18. And Bataan simply ran the home side out of the gym with a 22-7 edge in fastbreak points.

Twelve of the 15 players Lastimosa sent in scored (Arvie Bringas had an excellent chance to get on the scoring board but he muffed two free throws including one shot from under the basket).

Ludovice led the way with 13 while David added 12, and Tolentino, 10.

Marikina’s Ronald Roy top scored for the game with 16 while high-flying forward Renato Ular managed 11. 

When pressed for a comment about the game, Marikina head coach Elvis Tolentino simply said regarding Bataan, “That’s a very good team that is on a mission.”

Next up: the home stand in Bataan against the Paranaque Patriots on February 28.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Jojo Lastimosa cautions Bataan against upset-minded Marikina

Lastimosa cautions Bataan against upset-minded Marikina

Bataan Risers head coach Jojo Lastimosa reflected on his team’s last three wins – two close ones and one blowout.

Bataan scrapped past Laguna, 77-70, and Muntinlupa, 67-63, after which they ran Mandaluyong off the court, 109-65, to go to 20-2, with three matches to play.

Said Lastimosa, “We’ve had two close games and one blowout. As for the close games, I don’t mind grinding out wins because we learn to defend the endgame and execute our offense. The close games help us handle the pressure better. The blowouts… well… that is good too because you see the system working. You also look to give rest to those who log long minutes and give playing time to others. You also hope the others will step up for the last push.”

Up next is a game against the Marikina Shoemasters at the Marist Gym on February 18. Marikina is at 8-14.

Their record notwithstanding, the Shoemasters have only lost one blowout game all season and that was to Makati, 90-71. All their other 21 games were won or lost in the last three minutes of play. They are 2-4 this 2019. In their two wins, they won by 2.0 points. In their losses, they lost by an average of 4.7 points. They are coming off a 71-69 win against Pasig. 

The Shoemasters are coached by Elvis Tolentino and led by former San Sebastian Stag and Marikina native Ryan Costelo, Erwin Sta. Maria, Renato Ular, and Yves Sazon.

“I am not taking anything for granted in our last three matches of the elimination round,” promised Lastimosa. “Every team wants to finish strong regardless where they are in the standings. And it is difficult to play teams that are playing with no pressure.”

“For Bataan, I want to preserve the mindset of winning and developing a killer instinct. That will help us in the coming play-offs.”

Thursday, February 7, 2019

4 players to look out for in the ongoing BBI Team B tournament

Top left to right: TIP's Bryan Santos and OLFU's VJ Alarcon.
Bottom left to right: MLQU's Sam Peralta and Ateneo's RV Berjay

4 players to look out for in the ongoing BBI Team B tournament
by rick olivares

There is an ongoing tournament at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center inside the Ateneo de Manila University campus in Quezon City. Taking part in the Men’s Under-25 tournament of the BBI Conference 2 are squads from Ateneo, De La Salle University, University of the Philippines, San Sebastian College Recoletos, Manuel L. Quezon University, AMA Computer College, Our Lady of Fatima University, and the Technological Institute of the Philippines.

The tournament is one way of looking at players hoping to crack the UAAP and NCAA line-ups or wanting to be recruited by the big programs (via transfer). We did not include the players who have seen action in the UAAP and the NCAA such as UP’s Ricci Rivero or Will Gozum, San Sebastian’s JM Calma and Alvin Capobres, or Ateneo’s Jawaun White. We are looking at players who haven’t played in the big leagues. 

Here are four players.

RV Berjay, Ateneo Blue Eagles
This 6’4” Filipino-Briton played for Batang Gilas during the 2015 Seaba tourney and suited up for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets in juniors competition. RV recently played in the PCCL title run where he gave a good account of himself. 

He has also been playing well in the BBI tourney posting averages of 15.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game manning the four-spot. 

While playing for the Blue Eaglets in the juniors division, he was mainly an inside player. He’s added an outside shot to his arsenal.

VJ Alarcon, OLFU Phoenix
Homegrown player for Fatima. The 6'1" swingman came up from their high school program and is now torching the NAASCU and BBI nets. Good medium range jumper and can get to the rack if need be. Bull-strong and willing to take the shot.

Currently averaging 12.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.2 steals. 

Sam Peralta, MLQU Stallions
Peralta, the 6'5" center for the Stallions (that also play in NAASCU), is averaging a league best 18.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game.

Bryan Santos, TIP Engineers
This 6’5” forward slides from the three and the four for coach Potit De Vera. His strong play in the Universities and Colleges Basketball League (where he was named Most Valuable Player and earned a spot in the Mythical Five) and the BBI has attracted the attention of a NCAA school that has been pirating Santos. But the kid – with three more years to play for TIP – is staying put. Santos is averaging 16.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in the ongoing BBI tournament.

The Quiet Role Player off the Bench: Bernie Bregondo

The Quiet Role Player off the Bench: Bernie Bregondo
by rick olivares

The Bataan Risers’ Bernie Bregondo has always been that quiet role player wherever he has played. But make no mistake, he has the capacity to put up solid numbers. 

With the Risers, the 6’4” Bregondo, who hails from Talisay City in Cebu, usually comes in to spell Alfred Batino or even previously, Jeepy Faundo. On the court, he plays the four spot or at times, the five, where he guards the opposing team’s scoring forward-center.

As a sign of his importance, Bataan head coach Jojo Lastimosa has fielded Bregondo in 20 of the Risers’ 21 matches in which he averaged 2.9 points and 3.8 rebounds an outing.  

While the numbers may not seem much, since Bataan’s loss to San Juan late last year, the Risers and Bregondo, have both picked up their games. Since that tussle with the SJ Knights, the Risers have gone 5-0 with Bernie hiking his output to 5.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in that stretch. His best game in this current streak was against Zamboanga where he tallied eight points and nine rebounds.

His old college coach with the Southwestern University Cobras, Mike Reyes, says he is not surprised that his former player is contributing to Bataan’s cause. “Bernie Bregondo is an ideal role player,” underscored Reyes. “He does not demand the ball. He understands what is asked of him, and that other players will get more shots and minutes. But when he is on the floor, he will always play hard.”

Reyes also commended Lastimosa for recognizing Bregondo’s best traits as a player. “Nakita ni Jolas yung value ni Bernie.”

Those sentiment is echoed by Lastimosa, “Bernie… will do what is best for the team and what is asked of him. If he is asked to guard the opposing team’s center, he will do so and sacrifice all his fouls. And he will always play hard.”

When Bregondo was playing in CESAFI (Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc.), he was teammates with Mark Tallo (now with the NLEX Road Warriors in the PBA), Jasper Parker (who transferred to FEU after two seasons with SWU), and dominant Cameroonian center, Landry Sanjo. That Cobras line-up won two CESAFI titles fending off tough challenges from the University of Visayas and the University of San Carlos

Now, Bregondo feels that history is repeating itself as his MPBL team, the Risers, are leading the league with a 19-2 record with lots of talented teams competing for the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu’s Cup trophy.  

“Happy and proud ako na kasama ako rito sa Bataan,” pronounced Bregondo. “Sana mag-champion kami this season. Maraming malakas na teams, pero ang maganda sa team namin, lahat nag-contribute. Wala kaming pakelam kung sino maka-score ng marami. Basta manalo. Ako? Gagawin ko lahat para makatulong sa team na ma-achieve iyon.”

That’s Bernie Bregondo. A man who knows his role and how best to get it done.