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.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Wilma Salas insists on a low profile on the PVL’s hottest team

Wilma Salas insists on a low profile on the PVL’s hottest team
by rick olivares

Wilma Salas flew into Manila from Cuba on Saturday night, less than 24 hours before her new volleyball team, Petro Gazz was scheduled to take on the Creamline Coolsmashers on opening day of the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference.

“Oh, it’s hot,” she exclaimed when she got out of the airport and the hot and humid night. 

Several hours later, the 28-year old Cuban volleybelle remained hot as Creamline failed to cool her down en route to a game high 20 points (off 18 spikes and two blocks) and a three-set win over the defending champions (25-22, 26-24, 25-22).  

“It’s amazing how we and the entire quickly connected,” admired fellow import Janisa Johnson of Salas and their new team, Petro Gazz.

Once more, a few hours before the Petro Gazz Angels were scheduled the Banko Perlas Spikers, Salas was talking about how Filipino food resembled Cuban cuisine. “The Spanish influence,” she ventured. 

Come game time, trailing the Banko Perlas Spikers early in the first set, Salas led the team on a comeback, to take a 11-10 lead they would not surrender. Their foe was unable to receive and launch their attacks as Petro Gazz won once more in runaway fashion (2519, 25-21, 25-12). 

Yet for all the early season success, Salas has expressed caution. “I’ve played this game in many countries – Italy, Turkey Azerbaijan, Israel, and others. There is still a long way to go.”

While growing up in Cuba, Salas first gravitated towards basketball. But volleyball is even more popular in the island nation and she made the jump where she eventually represented the Cuban national team several times in the FIVB World Championships as well as the Pan American Games. 

“I think it is more fun, she succinctly said of the sport. “I enjoy it more.”

Not even a week yet in the Philippines, Salas is having a lot of fun. “It is not just the winning, but also the team atmosphere. It is a very good organization too.”

As she made her way out of the Filoil flying V Centre for a team dinner in the nearby Santolan Town Center, some fans asked for some selfies. “Good luck on your way to the championship,” one said.

“She smiled and only promised that she will try. 

“It’s hot,” she remarked. 

Yes, Wilma Sala is currently playing for the hottest team in the PVL.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Talking to PetroGazz import Janisa Johnson

Talking to PetroGazz import Janisa Johnson
by rick olivares

The PetroGazz Angels opened the Reinforced Conference of the Premier Volleyball League with a resounding three-set win over fancied Creamline (25-22, 26-24, 25-22).

The Angels’ two imports, Cuban Wilma Salas, and American Janisa Johnson, took center stage for PetroGazz as they scored 20 and 16 points respectively. Despite standing only at a deceptive 5’6”, Johnson can sure get up in the air and smash home some powerful spikes.

The 27-year old Johnson previously played for BaliPure during the 2018 Reinforced Conference alongside fellow American Alexis Matthews where the team finished sixth place with a 4-9 record. She most recently played in France with the Beziers Angels (from September to May).

So from one Angels team to another; with this one, the PetroGazz version.

We caught up with Johnson a day before their next match against Banko Perlas on Wednesday, May 29 (at 5pm), to talk about returning to the Philippines as well as her finding her way with her new team.

Q: How did you hook up with PetroGazz?

Johnson: One of my teammates from PetroGazz asked if I would be interested in playing for the team and shortly after, the manager asked the same. I was a fan of the team from what I remember playing against them last season so it was an easy “yes” for me.”

Q: How is the adjustment with your new team?

Johnson: I am doing great with this team. They’re a fun group of girls and we push each other to be the best players we can be.

Q: How was your adjustment this time around considering the heat?

Johnson: Yeah, this time around it was easier for me to adjust because I knew what I was coming into. Surprisingly, I have gotten used to the heat since dealing with it last season. I’m more prepared now and I realize I need to carry an umbrella with me no matter how sunny the weather may assume to be.

Q: How was it playing alongside Wilma Salas? 

Johnson: I met her hours before the game, but her and I got along well. When we were on the court, there were no problems connecting with one another. It was so easy playing with each other that I forget she arrived literally the night before the game.

I understand her English, but often, she speaks to me in Spanish. And since I am half Hispanic, there aren’t any problems conversing.

LPU Pirates scuttle EAC in Filoil tilt

LPU Pirates scuttle EAC in Filoil tilt
by rick olivares

The Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates bounced back from their loss last week to Far Eastern University with an 86-64 win over Emilio Aguinaldo College in the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan. 

The Pirates’ transferees from San Sebastian College – Jayson David, Rhanzelle Yong, and Renzo Navarro – presided over a huge blitz that bridged the first and second quarters that had EAC reeling. The trio scored their team’s first 24 points while helping limit the Generals to 10 points in the first 13 minutes of the match.

LPU hiked their lead to a high of 27 points, 60-33, following two free throws by Filipino-Australian forward-center Jerwyn Guinto with a minute to play in the third frame.

The Generals, however, showed the fight in them when they opened the final quarter with a 19-6 run behind JP Maguliano’s six points, 69-57, time down to 5:19.

Pirates head coach Topex Robinson sent back in Nzeusseu to quell the uprising and he quickly attacked the post to score on Maguliano, 71-57. Yancy Remulla’s triple was sandwich by four more Nzeusseu points to end EAC’s ideas of an endgame rally as they succumbed to an 86-64 setback, their fourth in five matches.

Jayson David led LPU to its fourth win in five games with 14 points. Mike Nzeusseu added 13 while Jeff Santos chipped in 12 with all his points coming from three-point bombs.

Kely Gurtiza led the hard-luck EAC Generals with 16 points. Kyle Carlos added 12 with Maguliano finishing with 10.

Robinson was happy with the bounce back win saying the loss to FEU “was an eye opener for us.” LPU’s coach used 15 players who all chipped in some statistical way. “We want to give everyone chances to play to see what they can do,” he added of his team’s effort. “Some might say that why gamble to allow EAC back in the game, but the Generals also have a good team in the making.”

LPU shot an incredible 50% from the field but were miserable from the free throw line where they were 13-23 for 57%. “That is something we really have to work on,” added Robinson of his team’s shooting form from 15-feet away. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Kent Michael Salado: The Last Chieftain

The Last Chieftain
by rick olivares

There were moments when it was circa 2014 and 2016. Arellano University Chief Kent Michael Salado put on the moves against De La Salle’s Encho Serrano then pulled up and stuck in a long jumper, 40-39, for the former’s squad.

Earlier, he drove right through the heart of La Salle’s defense and lofted a reverse lay-up where the ball kissed the glass before finding the bottom of the net.

But that jumper, would be the last gasp for the Chiefs against the Green Archers in that match as they dropped a huge run that gave them control of the game. It ended in an ugly 95-62 blowout loss for the Chiefs.

Inside the Arellano locker room, Salado iced his knees. 

It wasn’t too long ago where he suffered a knee injury while playing for Go for Gold in the D-League that also ended his 2018-19 campaign also with Arellano that was supposed to be his swan song with the team.

Salado, who hails from Cagayan De Oro, leaned back and took in the atmosphere in the dugout. Gone ae his running mates Jio Jalalon and Donald Gumaru. Together the three of them pressed foes into oblivion. Their understanding of each other and the game was telepathic. They made the game fun to watch with their free-wheeling ways.

Gone too are sniper Zach Nichols, athletic forward Michael Cañete, sleek Dioncee Holts who was actually a forward playing center, tough swingman Brylle Meca, and strong man Lervin Flores.

Archie Concepcion is still around as is Rence Alcoriza and Ellie Ongolo Ongolo. Salado went to war with those three.

However, the days when the Arellano Chiefs were NCAA title contenders are over; at least for now. They still had the makings of a Final Four squad last season when they still had Levi De la Cruz, Richard Abanes, Allen Enriquez, Kraniel Villoria, and Marwin Taywan. And of course, head coach Jerry Codinera who picked up the squad and turned them into NCAA finalists.

Some have graduated, most have left after the season for various reasons (and depending on who you ask). Taywan is now with the Emilio Aguinaldo Generals where he is perhaps that team’s version of Salado.

Salado now wears his hair long with some facial hair; like a younger Terrence Romeo. 

The Chiefs are 0-4 in the ongoing Filoil tourney. There isn’t much help save for power forward transferee Justin Araña. Alcoriza still has his moments. But the Chiefs cannot replicate their troika of Jalalon-Salado-Gumaru.

“When I returned, I had to adjust to this new team,” said Salado in the vernacular. “Before, we all knew what each one was going to do so we passed the ball where someone should be, we gambled on defense knowing someone was going to cover for me if my man got past me. Now, I don’t know. We’re learning to play with each other which is what the pre-season is all about.”

Right now, opposing teams are gearing their defense towards stopping Salado. La Salle threw a tough defending Serrano against him and when Salado was able to blow by him, there was a taller player to challenge the jump shot. With no Gumaru to spot up from the outside, no Nichols, in one particular play, Salado drove and tried another of those zany twisting reverse lay-ups of his. This time, La Salle was ready for him and center Justine Baltazar rejected the shot, grabbed the loose ball, and pitched it out igniting a fastbreak.

When Salado returned to the game, it was trying to stop a water leak with one’s hand. By the final frame, Cholo Martin, who replaced Codinera, went to his third unit (and the massacre continued).

After the game, Salado remained upbeat. “I have to,” he said “This is a young team and my role has changed. It’s to help them along and provide leadership. I cannot score 20-points per game. What is the use if we lose? I do what I have to but also to help the others get their shots. This is why we play the preseason more so since we (Arellano University) are NCAA season hosts.”

Does he think the Chiefs have what it takes to return to the Final Four let alone win it all?

He paused for what seemed like close to a minute. He smiled rather wryly. Kent Michael Salado knows it is tough. Very tough. San Beda is still the prohibitive favorite. Lyceum remains tough. San Sebastian and College of St. Benilde look mighty good. Mapua is up and coming as is Emilio Aguinaldo College. Jose Rizal University has the makings of a good team but still needs some pieces for them to make a Final Four push.

Salado smiled and measured his words, “We will try,” he once more said in the vernacular. “The ball is round.”

And the last of the great Chieftains who led Arellano to its best years in the NCAA got up and went out of the arena (the team bus more than 40 minutes late in picking them up). Salado sat down by the players’ entrance and joked about the bus being late. 

The bus driver has moved on. Salado’s hoping now, that this Chiefs team hasn’t missed the bus to basketball’s Promised Land.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

UAAP Women’s Volley Finals Game Two: Has Ateneo found its mojo?

UAAP Women’s Volley Finals Game Two: Has Ateneo found its mojo?
by rick olivares

The Ateneo Lady Eagles finally showed up in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Finals winning Game Two in four sets (26-24, 14-25, 25-21, 25-15) to set up the winner-take-all game this Saturday.

However, it didn’t happen right away.

The malady that has inflicted this Ateneo team – playing great one set then disappearing the next – almost all season long nearly did them in. We’ve always pointed out their inconsistencies despite their 12-2 elimination round record that really doesn’t mean much at this stage. Surprisingly for a veteran team like theirs too. I can expect that from NU, Adamson, and UE, but not them. 

One can point out to Eya Laure’s injury as that moment when the pendulum swung this Game Two. Yes, but not entirely. I thought the Lady Eagles looked better than their second set selves and that Dani Ravena’s entry also galvanized them. 

What makes UST dangerous is their consistency in scoring from all positions in the front court. Cherry Ann Rondina and Laure in the wings and KC Galdones and Ysa Jimenez or even Alina Bicar and Caitlyn Viray in the middle. Ateneo… well, you know Kat Tolentino and Maddie Madayag will provide that sock. With Ponggay Gaston and Bea De Leon, you’re not too sure. When Bea is on…. It feeds off on the rest of the team because she is such an emotional player. 

Watching UST all season long, I don’t recall head coach Kung-Fu Reyes getting mad on occasion like he would in previous years. He was more chill this year. Even when his team lost some games in the elimination round, they were chill. 

I don’t think they played under the radar at all. They did after Milena Alessandrini went down. But after that they were blazing again. I don’t think I saw a look of desperation on their faces probably until Game Two when they woke the sleeping giant.

Whether a combination of having a nuclear weapon in Rondina, and a shock trooper in Laure, the rookies played with no fear. Para silang nakasandal sa pader as that old commercial (Traders Royal bank in case this generation doesn’t know) said.

That is key…. The performances of Galdones, Jimenez, Mafe Galanza, and Laure. With that no fear mindset, they took it to Ateneo in Game One; hence, the win. 

Sure, Ateneo’s Achilles’ heel since Denden Lazaro’s graduation has been their floor defense. Gizelle Tan gave a good account of herself later on. And Ravena, on occasion (I think she will be fine next season). 

When was the last time we saw an injury during the finals? That was Season 77 when La Salle lost two players in the finals. Unlike this Ateneo-UST series, that finals was pretty much Ateneo’s. This time… well, it also hinges on Laure’s health.

I mentioned in an article the previous week that during a conversation with Eddie Laure, Eya’s father, he thought that the long minutes has told on his daughter. Not that he is blaming anyone. Her other teammates play just as long minutes. It was more of the nicks and niggling injuries that eventually told on Eya.

Has Ateneo recovered its mojo? 

I can’ tell. 

I did say that this is all about grit. Who will grit their teeth and bear the pain and the pressure? 

When asked about Game Two, I said that the first set was key for Ateneo. If they get it, meron silang baon. If not, they’ll be in a hole that I don’t think they can recover. 

Game Three will come down to which team’s stars will step up, how they battle those nerves, and who has fewer errors. 

Unlike previous seasons where you know that it is La Salle’s to win and La Salle’s to lose, this one is unpredictable. A team that is trying to regain its footing against a team on the rise.

And that is why this is why this is such an interesting series.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Players to watch out for this Filoil Preseason Cup

Players to watch out for this Filoil Preseason Cup
by rick olivares

The Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup is only in its second week and yet some players are making a case for themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming NCAA and UAAP seasons.

These are more reasons to watch the games at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Alec Stockton and Cade Flores (FEU)
Stockton, the New York City-kid began to get more minutes last season under Tamaraws head coach Olsen Racela. This summer, he has been promoted to the starting unit and he is making an impact on both ends of the floor.

Against National University, Stockton tallied 15 points, four rebounds, and one steal in 21 minutes. What the stat line does not show are how he played great defense against John Lloyd Clemente, Dave Ildefonso, and Chino Mosqueda. 

Flores, the Fil-Australian recruit will be a fixture at the four spot for FEU. Dependable mid-range jumper and free throw shooter. Rebounds and positions himself well. Not afraid to attack that lane.

Robert Minerva (NU)
Currently averaging 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, this kid who came up from the Bullpups is going to be a key player for NU for the next several years. He is their second chance opportunity player as he is adept at grabbing boards. He is willing to mix it up and can put the ball down the floor which is a huge plus.

Ralph Cu and Joaqui Manuel (DLSU)
When the Green Archers opened their summer account against UST, Manuel drove down the lane and missed a dunk against Growling Tigers center Chabi Yo.

Ambitious? Not really. Manuel has been throwing it down in practice games. He will eventually get someone and that is going to be something.

It is however, an indication that he is going to be an impact player in the vein of Kib Montalbo as he is smart and plays both ends of the floor. And he isn’t going to back down against anyone.

As for Ralph Cu, watch out because DLSU has another gunner. After three matches, he is 8-18 from three-point range and is averaging 8.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.

Dave Ando (UST)
Aldin Ayo has employed a twin towers combo with Soulemane Chabi Yo and Dave Ando. We know what we are getting with Chabi Yo who showed his wares in NAASCU. As for Ando who is in his second year, he is averaging 9.0 points and 9.5 rebounds. That is two rim protectors that Ayo has right now.

Kurt Reyson (Letran)
The second coming of JP Calvo? This homegrown player has become an integral part of the rotation of head coach Bonnie Tan. Even as a rookie, he is already displaying his leadership skills and willingness to take big shots. His stats will not show it yet, but this kid is a keeper.

Joem Sabandal (Adamson) 
This rookie who came up from the Baby Falcons has become a part of the rotation and is averaging 7.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in three matches. I’d say along with Jerom Lastimosa and Jed Colonia, this gives Franz Pumaren a good corps of playmaking guards who will only get better as they soak in more experience. But expect Sabandal to become a prime-time player for this team. He is exactly the creative player they need (as Lastimosa is more of a scoring guard) to get others involved. 

Honorable mention: Louise Delos Santos (JRU). He’s only played one game thus far but talk about an impact for JRU.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Prince Carlos to defend Hanes One-On-One King of the Hardcourt

Prince Carlos to defend Hanes One-On-One King of the Hardcourt
by rick olivares

College of St. Benilde’s youthful Prince Carlos will return to defend the Hanes One-On-One King of the Hardcourt when it tips off in the second week of play in the ongoing Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup.

Carlos defeated Letran’s Mark Taladua, 15-14, in the finals of the inaugural one-on-one tournament last season.

This season, players looking to knock Carlos (whose alternate is rookie Sidney Mosqueda) off his throne include Arellano University’s Justin Arana and Alfren Gayosa, CEU’s John Earl Lisbo, Letran’s King Policarpio, La Salle’s Francis Escandor and Jan Carl Luciano, FEU’s Cade Flores and Mike Casino, JRU’s Jarvy Ramos, Lyceum’s Rancy Remulla who competed in last year’s competition and Casper Pericas, Mapua’s Denniel Aguirre and Arvin Gamboa, NU’s John Galinato and Robert Minerva, San Beda’s Sean Lenard Garcia and Miguel Ratuiste, San Sebastian’s Rommel Calahat and Mario Emmanuel Bonleon, UP’s Joe Gomez De Liaño and CJ Catapusan, and UST’s Zach Huang and Sherwin Concepcion.

“Competing in last year’s Hanes One-On-One King of the Hardcourt really improved my game,” bared Carlos. “In high school at De La Salle Zobel, I was known more as a shooter. But in one-on-one, you cannot shoot all the time. You also have to attack that basket and rebound or else you will not get chances. That helped boost my confidence come the NCAA. So, I am looking forward to defend the title.”

Back in the 1980s, the one-on-one competition was introduced in collegiate play by the UAAP with UST’s Bennett Palad winning the inaugural tilt in the seniors division and Ateneo’s JV Gayoso taking home the trophy in the juniors bracket.

Palad, who works as tournament director for the Hanes competition in the ongoing Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup agreed with Carlos’ observations. “It is a good experience because it is just two players with a lot of people watching. The approach and attitude towards the one-on-one game helps you in your approach in the five-on-five game. It adds to your confidence.”

Carlos declined to say if he has any new tricks up his sleeve. “We’ll just see what we can do,” he said. “Last year, winning the Hanes competition gave me more confidence shooting the triple. This year, all I can say is I will do our best.”

The winner of the Hanes One-On-One King of the Hardcourt will receive a cash prize of P20,000.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Meet the newest basketball brothers: Bradwyn and Jerwyn Guinto

Meet the newest basketball brothers: Bradwyn and Jerwyn Guinto
by rick olivares

Among the crowd watching the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates take on the College of Saint Benilde Blazers was Bradwyn Guinto who is now plying his basketball trade with the NorthPort Batang Pier in the PBA.

The six-foot-six Guinto was just as serene as the Monday afternoon; a countenance that belief the tough, close match between LPU and CSB on the second day of the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup.

The interest for Guinto who played for the San Sebastian Stags in the NCAA was the Pirates’ back-up center, Jerwyn; his younger brother.

“I try to watch all his games to support him,” said the elder Guinto. “The game hasn’t even started and my parents, (Alwin and Wilma who are both in Melbourne, Australia) are texting and asking for updates.”

Incidentally, Jerwyn was also in the Stags’ pipeline until he like many other former Stags, made the exodus to the LPU campus in Intramuros. Other former SSCR players include Jayson David, Rhanzelle Yong, Enzo Navarro, and Spencer Pretta. The Pirates’ head coach, Topex Robinson, was a former star player for the Stags and coached them for a couple of seasons. 

Like the “family atmosphere” that has been formed in LPU, basketball is the same for the Guintos. 

Bradwyn was born in the Philippines, but his family moved to Australia when he was only eight months old. Jerwyn, six years his junior, was born there.

Tennis was Bradwyn’s first sport although he did play some rugby and cricket. “You have to go through it,” chuckled the older sibling. “It’s the national sport there although basketball is popular. Gravitating towards basketball and then playing back in the Philippines seemed like a natural thing to do.”

Does the rugby explain the fact that both brothers like to mix it up in the middle with no fear of the roughness of the alligator wrestling pond? “Yes,” laughed Bradwyn.

While both brothers play inside, Bradwyn always had his hair cut short. Jerwyn, looks like a free-spirited version with his hair worn long and tied during games. Like a Fil-Aussie version of New Zealand’s Steven Adams. 

Bradwyn laughs at the comparison.

This was 6’5” Jerwyn’s second stint in the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup although he wasn’t lined up for the previous NCAA season. Against CSB, in 11 minutes of action backing up Mike Nzeusseu, Jerwyn tallied four points and five rebounds versus one turnover.

“Not bad,” observed the kuya. “He was battling out there against the bigger players of Benilde (the Twin Tower of Jeremiah Pangalangan and Ladis Lepalam who both stand 6’8”).”

“It feels great to be finally part of the line-up this upcoming season” put in Jerwyn. “I feel like I have worked my butt off to earn a spot and will continue to work hard every day. And having my older brother here to support me means a lot.”

“We added a bit more ceiling to our team this year with the addition of Jerwyn and Alvin Baetiong,” pointed out LPU head coach Topex Robinson. “We need them to spell Mike or even to allow him to play the three.”

After the match, that LPU won – after finally dispatching a pesky CSB team early in the fourth period – by the score of 70-57, the two brothers shared a quick chat outside the Pirates’ locker room. “Me? I’m just rooting for my brother to do well. I know as he gets more experience, he will add a lot to the team.”