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, March 26, 2019

MPBL North Division Semi-finals Preview: Bataan vs Manila

North Division Semi-finals Preview: Bataan vs Manila
by rick olivares

Bataan Risers (23-2)
Manila Stars (20-5)

Bataan sweeps Caloocan 2-0
91-71 at Bataan
83-71 at San Andres, Manila

Manila sweeps Bulacan 2-0
69-65 at Bataan
92-83 at San Andres, Manila

You can bet Bataan was looking forward to this match-up. Manila gave them their first black eye of the season – an 89-82 loss to start out the 2018-19 campaign – so this one is where the Risers who have come a long way from that June 16 tussle as the San Andres Sports Complex.

At this point, you can throw out the regular season record. Both teams are back to square one.

For starters, the team chemistry is much better. Two, they have a somewhat different line-up as Ervin Grospe is still out after sustaining a season-ending knee injury in that game and Jeepy Faundo and Jayjay Alejandro are in the PBA. In their place, they added more potent pieces in Yvan Ludovice, Richard Escoto, Barkley Eboña, and Arvie Bringas. 

Gab Dagangon isn’t that player he was then. He didn’t score a point in that early season match-up and grabbed only two rebounds (in less than six minutes of play). Since that time, he has become the energizer for Bataan and a scoring and defensive force for the Risers. 

They have several go-to players in Pamboy Raymundo, Gary David, Richard Escoto, Yvan Ludovice, and Dagangon who can manufacture their own shots. 

In my opinion, the Risers hit their stride after the win over the Quezon City Capitals in early August of 2018. That win was their biggest to that date and propelled them to their 14-game win streak. 

This team is flush with confidence and has better team chemistry and balance. The rotation and the substitution pattern is better with all the players knowing their roles. Up and down the line-up, the Risers’ produce. 

Having said that, for Bataan to defeat Manila, they will need to outwork them on both ends of the court. They will need to keep Manila’s frontline from dominating the boards on both ends of the court. 

Speaking of the court, Bataan will have to hold serve in their home court. That is what they worked so hard for – to nail that home court advantage and the home crowd that comes with it. 

You have to give it to Manila for standing pat on their current line-up. It is already a tough one and they will battle the Risers tooth and nail for every possession.

Like the San Juan Knights, the Stars have a very tough frontline in former JRU Heavy Bombers John Lopez and Marvin Hayes (they weren’t teammates as the latter entered first) as well as former FEU Tamaraw and Barangay Ginebra center Reil Cervantes. 

And there is former St. Clare Saint Aris Dionisio who is one of the best power forwards in the amateurs. This kid has been racking up individual awards next to team trophies in the NAASCU and D-League. He doesn’t need any plans called for him. He is like former San Miguel Beerman Freddie Abuda (in terms of scavenging for offensive rebounds) although with a medium range jumpshot. Just like everywhere he goes, he is the top shot blocker. And Dionisio is the top shot blocker in the MPBL. 

They also have some potent scorers in former Arellano Chief Adrian Celada (if he returns from an injury that has sidelined him for about five matches now) and former ex-pro Roger Yap. And to think they aren’t using Jasper Parker in the way they should. Marcy Arellano gets more minutes. Celada is the best in field goal percentage in the MPBL. 

If Manila rules the boards and the second chance points, expect them to have one foot in the win door for Game 1. But make no mistake… it will be a titanic battle. 

One huge stat from the first time they met is in assists. Manila finished with 24 while Bataan had 11. 

Again, this is a different team mentally and team-work wise that Manila will face. 

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