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, September 30, 2019

Ateneo crushes UP: A game of moments and the next man up

A game of moments and the next man up.
by rick olivares

There’s that moment… at the 2:38 mark of the fourth period. The ball goes down the post to Adrian Wong who is being guarded by UP’s Juan Gomez De Liaño. Wong wraps a behind the back bounce pass to a cutting Matt Nieto who goes hard. UP’s Bright Akhuetie challenges and probably forces the miss. Javi Gomez De Liaño loses sight of Will Navarro who is outside the box. The second year Blue Eagle forward swoops in and as he did on two other plays in the first period puts back the miss for a bucket, 79-58, Ateneo.

The Fighting Maroons call for time. Nieto chest bumps Navarro who has taken up defensive position just right about the halfcourt line. There’s the teamwork, unselfishness, and the explosion of emotions of a team on a mission.

There’s also the movement.

Flashback to the first period at the 7:04 mark, Nieto has the ball at the left corner pocket with UP’s David Murrell on him.  Navarro, Angelo Kouame, and Thirdy Ravena are all outside. Wong is underneath the basket with UP’s Jun Manzo on him. 

A missed jumper by Nieto will mean UP has the inside track on the rebound with Kobe Paras, Akhuetie, and JD Tungcab watching for any incursions. In one motion, Wong clears out heading into the right corner. Manzo whirls around and gives chase. It is that exact moment that Nieto blows by Murrell and goes hard to the basket. Akhuetie and Tungcab do not realize what is going on. Paras reaches in but he too is too late. And-one, 8-5, Ateneo. Tungcab claps his hands knowing they botched that defensive possession.

Among the eight starting point guards in the league, Nieto plays the fewest minutes outside NU’s Enzo Joson. Others play longer minutes and take more shots. But no one is more efficient than Ateneo’s court general. And he isn’t even in the Top 10 in terms of assists and assists to turnover ratio. You will find him second in steals. But in perhaps that unofficial stat in the pass that leads to the assist, you will find Nieto (that is a stat that is gaining popularity in football – the pass that leads to the assist).

Furthermore, he knows how to get his teammates into the game. No one set up Anton Asistio better than Matt. And with Thirdy struggling this first round, he gave that perfect bounce pass to Ravena for a lay-up that helped him get going. That is something the other point guards in Tyler Tio and SJ Belangel need to learn in a hurry -- to dibble less, and create plays for their teammates.

Navarro is another… everyone knows what they are getting from Kouame and Ravena (for a while he looked like he was headed for another bad game but he played well in the second half as he began to attack instead of settling for jumpers), but 6'5" forward is crucial to Ateneo's game plan, rotation, and title aspirations.

In the preseason leading up to Season 81, Navarro was starting. He had his moments but largely struggled losing his spot to Raffy Verano. With Verano unavailable, Navarro has stepped up. In his one year playing for San Beda, he would rifle in shots from the outside (usually the top of the three-point arc). He would oft get chastised for that by then head coach Jamike Jarin for not making good decisions with the ball. This year, he has been crucial. After Kouame, Thirdy Ravena and Navarro are the next shot blockers with six apiece. Once more after Kouame, and Gian Mamuyac, he has the third best field goal percentage on the team. His strong play and quiet efficiency has helped Ateneo to its unblemished run.

While in their six previous games, Ateneo got the job done largely through their defense, this was the game – the law of averages, I suppose – where their offense blew the opponent away. Ateneo shot 48% from the field, was 10-14 from the free throw line, and hurt UP from inside (52-28) and outside (27-19).

Yes, the 1-3-1 zone befuddled UP, but the offense was devastating.

They flashed it versus Adamson in the very first game of the season. They blitzed La Salle then stepped off the gas pedal. This game, they went full throttle for an 89-63 win to go to 7-0; the last undefeated team in the league.

In the biggest match of the season (so far), Ateneo was up to the task. While they get up for all foes, they have heard what has been said that UP is ready to unseat them with their cavalcade of stars.

The problem is, they are facing a team. A team where everyone knows their role and they are on a mission.

No discussion about the game cannot pass without that incident where UP head coach Bo Perasol was tossed for consecutive technical fouls after he charged into the referee over what he thought was a non-call after Kouame’s block on Jerson Prado. Coach Bo is a very good friend of mine, but I must admit that it was disappointing. That was in the midst of an Ateneo run where they led by 12. Whether there was a foul or not, he shouldn’t have exploded like that. There were botched calls on Akhuetie as well (see his non-offensive foul on Adrian Wong for one). I can imagine the pressure he is under and I feel for him. Whether it was done purposely to get his team fired up or he was really pissed or even both… well, it backfired. 

When he was coach of Ateneo and he charged into the stands after he was heckled by a La Salle fan, I was right behind him. I had his six. We have remained friends even after he moved to his alma mater. For this game, I thought that the frustrations were boiling up. They were staring at a rout and well, it left a bad taste in the mouth. 

And to think that this is just an elimination round game. 

With many teams clogging the middle of the pack, the second round is going to get a lot testier.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

A NU Bulldogs class

A NU class
by rick olivares

After the National University Bulldogs crushed the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 61-39, last week in the ongoing UAAP season 82 Men’s Basketball Tournament, the former’s head coach Jamike Jarin brought the entire team to the media room for the post-match press conference room.

Not only was that a first to have an entire team to bask in the afterglow of a badly-needed win, but it was classic Jamike Jarin. 

Since he came up with the Ateneo Blue Eaglets where he won a smattering of titles (he also won coaching the San Beda Red Lions in the NCAA), he has never placed the spotlight on himself. He would only stay for a minute or two to be interviewed then turn it over to his players.

Jarin though has always been one of the most quotable coaches. His quotes are funny and insightful as is his basketball mind. One of the game’s characters, I do hope his team does better because he does deserve better.

The Bulldogs are at the lower tier of the standings with a 1-5 record, but they could easily be at 5-1 had they not crumbled in the final minute of play in four of their five losses.

I have reasoned in the past and have done so this year that these Bulldogs are still too young. Last year, with players like John Lloyd Clemente and Dave Ildefonso coming up, it was learning to play together. Look, save for one or two players everyone else was the man on their respective high school teams. Finding their place on the team or knowing their roles isn’t something that can be accomplished overnight. That takes a huge paradigm shift. 

This season, I have maintained that it is finding their legs – meaning I still don’t think they would do well. It is by next season where they will finally gain some traction. It depends also what movements are made in the off-season.

I think this team is one solid power forward from seriously making a game out of it. Jonas Tibayan has played better this year, but he needs to be more consistent. He will given a bit more exposure and him gaining confidence. 

I wasn’t crazy about the addition of Troy Rike as a one-and-done player. That was a gamble. I thought that NU would have been better served had Tzaddy Rangel, Matt Aquino, and Tibayan been given more minutes. Am not saying that in hindsight. I am just not crazy at this rule of one-and-done players because it does make a mockery of the college game. 

Looking at this NU team and having closely followed them since the 1980s (I do have a lot of history with this team as their late coach Sonny Paguia was my neighbor and I have been close friends with Manny Dandan and Eric Altamirano and have also worked with the school in some capacity), I think they are on the cusp of being a very good basketball team. They will add a few more pieces, but this is a good team.

If their junior players in Carl Tamayo, Kevin Quiambao, and Gerry Abadiano move up, that will give them even more help. 

Yet, that is in the future. By no means is the season over for these Bulldogs. They have to keep on winning ballgames to have that chance for a Final Four slot.

It would be nice to see Jarin bring the entire team again for that post-match presser. Maybe more.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Kingston retains WWE title in Manila

Kingston retains WWE title in Manila
by rick and anthony olivares

MANILA -- Kofi Kingston survived a devastating barrage of kicks by challenger Daniel Bryan to retain his WWE Smackdown title belt to a roaring Smart Araneta Coliseum crowd last Friday, September 20.

Kingston was literally on the ropes when Bryan, a multi-titled winner in his own right, rammed the former’s shoulder in to the corner ring post. Bryan stepped up his challenge with multiple kicks to the chest and head. On Bryan’s third running kick, Kingston pulled out at the last second and summoned the last amount of strength he had for his finishing move, Trouble in Paradise, a thunderous kick to the head that laid out the challenger.

The Ghanaian-American Kingston wasn’t the only one to retain their title belt on Friday night. 

Japanese whirlwind Shinsuke Nakamura was also pushed to the limit by Ali before retaining his Intercontinental title. Nakamura seemed to have taken Ali lightly as the latter dominated portions of the match despite constant interference from the Japanese star’s buddy, Sammy Zayn. 

Nakamura got the three-count off a Kinshasa that leveled Ali in what was arguably the best match of the night. 

Feeling good with himself and looking to make it two-for-two for the night, Zayn called out any wrestler in the WWE’s locker room for a fight. Much to his dismay and surprise, the 6’3” Roman Reigns answered the challenge. It took Nakamura’s interference to make a fight out of it, but the hulking Reigns speared Zayn to win the match.

Women’s Champion Bayley defeated Charlotte Flair in a Streetfight match. Despite refusing to engage in a table match, Bayley made use of chairs and a kendo stick to try and inflict damage on Flair who dominated most of the match. Bayley got the pinfall when she rammed the daughter of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair into a steel chair.

Flair got the last word in when post-match action, she threw Bayley twice on to a table that refused to break. 

In tag team action, the duo of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder, known as the Revival, defeated former champions, the New Day after the former stunned the Big E when he knocked him into an exposed turnbuckle. 

Despite the largely pro-New Day crowd at the Big Dome, the Revival, held on to the belts for the seventh consecutive month since taking the title belts from Bobby Roode and Chad Gable.

In other matches, crowd favorite Kevin Owens used a stunner on Andrade for the night’s first victory.

Carmella defeated Mandy Rose despite the constant meddling of Sonya Deville, and Chad Gable forced EC3 to submit via an ankle lock.

As Gable celebrated the win with special ringside announcer R-Truth, who held up the former’s arm in victory, EC3 sneaked up on the latter for a pin that awarded him the 24/7 title belt that R-Truth held. To atone for his not being to watch R-Truth’s back, Gable hunted down EC3 and bundled him into the ring for R-Truth to pin thus giving back the belt to the fan favorite.

Thousands of fans packed the Smart Araneta Coliseum for the WWE event. The last time the WWE was in Manila was in June of 2016. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The ring’s the thing for WWE’s Bayley

The ring’s the thing for WWE’s Bayley
by rick olivares

Professional wrestler Bayley (whose real name is Pamela Rose Martinez) entered the function room at the Marco Polo Hotel. She was able to get a good night’s sleep and she feels refreshed. 

“I think by mid-day I’ll feel some of that jet lag kick in,” pointed out the current World Wrestling Entertainment Smackdown Women’s Champion. “All I need is the crowd’s rush to get me through.”

It wasn’t too long ago when Bayley was growing up in California a pro wrestling fan. “They were larger than life heroes,” she said. “They wore these colorful costumes. Wore masks. Had outlandish entourages and oversized personalities. Our comic book super-heroes in the flesh. I was enthralled as a kid.”

Now she’s on the other side of the ring with millions and millions of fans following her every match, every Instagram post, and more. 

“It’s crazy. I always wanted to make fans feel that magic in atmosphere and what I experienced,” said Bayley. “It trips me out to see kids and even grown men wearing shirts with me on them. I don’t think I will ever get tired of it.”

However, Bayley echoed some sentiments bared by fellow WWWE stars Kevin Owens and Ali who graced a roundtable discussion with media a few hours earlier. 

“Our schedules can get really crazy and we t times are caught up in bad situations or even mood swings,” bared the WWE’s first Triple Crown or Grand Slam Champion having won women’s titles in all three promotions – Raw, Smackdown, and NXT. “As for me, I have to think three or four times before I say something because I could regret what I will say or even do. I have a six-year old and a 13-year old nephew watching too. And I would hate to give them a wrong impression that being a WWE superstar has gotten into my head.”

It is actually satisfying to see and hear a celebrity like Bayley talk not only being a role model, but also being concerned for the unfortunate instead of wrestling history all the time. “I do love pro wrestling and it has been good for me, however, I must remember that without this opportunity, I wouldn’t be able to experience all these things.”

One of the responsibilities of being a WWE superstar is doing a lot of charity work especially during big events such as Wrestlemania or Summer Slam. “With the WWE, we get to go around and go to places such as and children’s hospitals that is really special for me.  It is a big deal to spread joy, spend some time with kids who are battling way more heavier things that we can ever get worked up inside the ring. Outside wrestling never knew I could do that so I love doing this charity work.”

Doing charity work isn’t the only other thing in Bayley’s life that gives her a purpose. What drives Bayley is being at the forefront with her fellow WWWE wrestlers Charlotte Flair, Asuka, Carmella, Mandy Rose, and Peyton Royce to name but a few to carry the fight for gender equality. “Women have always been a huge part of pro wrestling and the WWE. They may not have gotten the spotlight they deserved, but the reason why we are here is because of Trish Stratus, Victoria, Lita etc. They paved the way for all of us. And the fact that we are seen as main eventers and appearing on the cover of video games is cool and fortunate for us. So this is a great job.”

Being a WWE superstar means constant travel and being on the road for much of the year. Every chance she gets, she returns home to her fiancée, Aaron Solow, and their Maltese Shih Tzu, Flex. 

“Flex the best,” enthused Bayley. “I had dogs growing up. Flex is my fiancée’s dog so he is like mine as well. Flex travels a lot with us and has even been on the ring!”

It’s a tough business, but I am loving every moment of it,” summed up Bayley. “Who says dreams cannot come true?”

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Looking at the Ateneo-UST game

Looking at the Ateneo-UST game
by rick olivares

For me, the Ateneo-UST game was like Godzilla vs King Ghidorah; two basketball “monsters” waging an intense, punch-counter punch game. It was like a throwback to the battles between the Blue Eagles and the Growling Tigers from 2011-12. Ateneo was at the tail-end of a glorious five-peat run and UST fielded an overpowering five with some very good bench players that challenged the former's dominance.

This season is the first we are seeing where every single school now has a squad that is backed by a program and money. The competition is tough and intense and true enough, the Ateneo-UST game will crowd the Adamson-NU match as one of this young season’s best games.

Ateneo got off to a good start as they raced to a 10-point lead. UST came roaring back and at one point blitzed the Blue Eagles with a ton of points to take the half and the third period. Ateneo seized the fourth period with great defense and timely offense. But they didn’t help their cause by missing three crucial free throws that would have made the game less exciting towards the end. 

The Blue Eagles squeaked past UST, 71-70, to remain unscathed. Ateneo knows there is much work to be done, while UST will know they are very close to getting past the defending champions. It is a game that boldly announces that the Growling Tigers are for real and is you aren’t ready, they will put the hurt on you.

What I liked about Ateneo in this game:
Thirdy Ravena bounced back from a miserable outing against La Salle with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and two assists. He was there in the fourth period during winning time along with Angelo Kouame and Gian Mamuyac.

And speaking of Mamuyac, Gian is going to be a prime time player. Aside from Kouame, Mamuyac is the only Blue Eagle to play the entire fourth quarter netting two points, two assists, and a rebound (he did miss to very late free throws that would have iced the game) in that final canto. Not everything that he did showed up on the stat board but he did make an impact. But I like his ability to create his own shot, to get to the rim, and to play great defense.

In the midst of another grind it out game, Ateneo got it done through its defense late in the game. The clutch gene that they developed over the past three years saw them hold off UST in the fourth period.

The Blue Eagles were 7/22 from the field while UST was 5/17. They outrebounded UST, 17-10, and as a result, scored 10-0 in fastbreak points, and 4-2 in second chance points. They also had two blocks and one steal to the Growling Tigers’ one steal in the final frame. However, they also missed three of four free throws late in the game that could have put the game away a bit earlier.

Ateneo did a good job on limiting Rhenz Abando and Mark Nonoy, but they couldn’t hold off Soulemane Chabi Yo until late in the game. But that is when Abando and Subido began to hit some shots. And that was a huge block by Kouame on Chabi Yo very late in the game. 

What I am concerned about with Ateneo:
Once more, the Blue Eagles showed a predilection for the outside shot. In my opinion, not everything is what the defense gives them. During one stretch in the fourth quarter, they attempted a trey in four straight possessions (they missed each time). 

While Ateneo had more inside points than UST, 34-28, I think they can attack the interior a bit more.

Sometimes, on an offensive rebound, they pass the ball out for the reset instead of going back in. If there is no opportunity to score, I can understand throwing the ball out. But sometimes, in my opinion, you should go inside because that is when the defense is most vulnerable because it isn’t set.

I have constantly harped about the inside game. Outside Thirdy and Angelo, there isn’t really another who is good at posting up. Yes, the Nieto brothers can. But it cannot be all posting up. I think it’s a mentality to attack inside. To pound it inside. 

Aside from being the hunted, Ateneo remains the gold standard. They may have struggled offensively, but they have stuck to that age-old team adage of “DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS.” So, I can live with that. 

They are 3-0 and people still haven’t seen their best. I can only imagine what it will be like when they start firing on all cylinders.

What I like about UST:
Despite the loss, the game only confirmed that UST isn’t only a Final Four threat but a dark horse contender to the title. 

And how about that audacity to thrice dunk on the defending champions? Watch out, Ateneo, there is someone tugging at your cape at its Aldin Ayo and the talented and exciting UST Growling Tigers.

The UST faithful can hope that this team is more than the second coming of those very good teams from 2011-14 except this time, they can bring back a title to España.
Karim Abdul – Soulemane Chabi Yo
Rhenz Abando – Kevin Ferrer
Renzo Subido - Jeric Fortuna 
Mark Nonoy – Ed Daquioag
CJ Cansino – Jeric Teng
Brent Paraiso – Aljon Mariano
Zach Huang – Paolo Pe

It is only the second year of Ayo in UST, but I will go on record to say that he is doing his best work. This time, he didn’t inherit anyone’s team. He put this one together in his image and likeness. And here’s the thing… we aren’t seeing the rough and dirty stuff we have seen from Ayo’s team in years past. It is just basketball. 

They are unflappable. Only Paraiso and Subido show a lot of emotion. Abando, Nonoy, Cansino, and Chabi Yo are all stoic. And I like that. They try not to lose focus and just play the game.

Monday, September 9, 2019

A different view on the Philippines this Fiba World Cup

A different view on the Philippines this Fiba World Cup
by rick olivares

The criticism vented towards the Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas continues to rain down following the wake of their 86-67 loss to Tunisia.

I think people have to put in context the results before they lambast anyone.
Tunisia qualified and played for the 2012 London Olympics. Five on the roster that defeated the Philippines were in London. They added some weapons, but showed there is continuity in their program.

How did the other Asian powers fare? As of Sunday morning, it is like this…
Australia is the only one to advance to the second round is 4-0.

The others? 
China is 2-2
New Zealand 2-2
Iran 1-3
Korea 0-4
Japan 0-4

How did we fare against these other countries in the qualification phase for this World Cup?
We lost twice to both Australia and Iran. Doesn’t it stand to reason that if Iran couldn’t get past the first round, then what are our chances?

Korea had the misfortune of being cast in the same group as Argentina and Russia and in all three games, they were badly mangled. 

China was bracketed along with Poland and Venezuela (hey basketball is their national sport there). That was winnable for China but the Poles slipped past them, 79-76, in overtime.

Iran was in a group where they had a chance as the only basketball power was Spain. Puerto Rico is always dangerous and they too squeaked past Iran, 83-81. Tunisia surprised them in the very next game, 79-67, and they stayed close to Spain before losing, 73-65.

Japan was crushed by Turkey and the USA and although the margin of defeat was closer to the Czech Republic, they still didn’t stack well against the Eastern European country.

New Zealand was unlucky as they lost close games to Brazil and Greece.

I think it is a problem when you think too highly of yourself. Did we really expect some close games like the ones we experienced in 2014? I think we ambushed them and the others did not take us seriously. The Argentina side we played was an ageing one while the Croats were younger! 

We got into the World Cup by the skin of our teeth and largely because of Andray Blatche. No, Blatche, we never would have gotten in. 

I have heard and read countless people point to problems with the program, the pro league and so on.

In my opinion, the national team has done better since the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas was organized. We’ve won two silver medals in Fiba Asia and now twice made the Fiba World Cup. We’ve even participated in an Olympic Qualifier. The team has had its best finish in the Asian Games for a while now while successfully defending our gains in Southeast Asia. The youth teams are qualifying.

Granted the format has expanded, but that is not the point. Even the Fiba World Cup has expanded.

I think with all this talk about programs…  we also have to look at our culture as a whole. How we conduct ourselves on a national level is replicated on the traffic-congested streets, in the way we go about our daily lives, and in the way we play – fractured, shamelessly hot dogging and blowing our own horn.

I have heard some that other countries have played together for quite some team. That is true to an extent. It should be noted that in Europe, there is no such thing as college basketball. It is club ball and players turn pro at an early age. Not one player participating in the current Fiba World Cup does not play professional ball. So that means they are only recalled into national team service when their leagues end.

I think it is all about skill development. Did you look at how the Tunisians constantly knifed right through the Philippines’ lane?

You also have to look at the development of Tunisia. Their journey to the Olympics was masterminded by Adel Tlatli who was realistic in his approach – he didn’t think they’d blow anyone out, but he pushed his team to aspire for more.

After Tlatli, Mario Palma took over. His name should be familiar to Filipino basketball watchers as we matched wits with him when he coached Jordan from 2009-11. Palma is noted for successfully building programs and he has done so with his various basketball 

Sometimes, the simple truth of the matter is --- we ran into much better teams. However, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t improve and plug the holes. We should. 

These cycles happen. It even happens to the best of them all – the United States of America. Yes, these were bad beat downs, but if you have been really paying attention… our world just got a lot more difficult in the last several years. Time was it was just the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans that we had to worry about. Now you can throw in Iran and the other West Asian countries as well as the Oceania teams.

If that isn’t a sobering thought, then I don’t know what is.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Ateneo defeats DLSU 81-69: A win is a win but it has this but…

A win is a win but it has this but…
by rick olivares

It’s a big win no doubt. Any win you can get against La Salle is always good. However, there is a part of me that feels a wee bit unsatisfied with this 81-69 triumph.

I don’t think La Salle has what it takes to beat us this year and this was a great opportunity to bury them. And the Blue Eagles did, at least in the first half by 22 points. The inevitable La Salle run came and although the team handled it well at first, turnovers and I thought a missed moment that deserved a substitution, and ugly offense saw the Green Archers launch a stirring comeback.

I can overlook the subpar outing by Thirdy Ravena and Angelo Kouame (he played well defensively though), but there were things I didn’t like at all. We will get to that in a bit.

I thought that this was a great opportunity to really give them pause to think about their team and their strategy of acquiring transferees and one-and-dones. Instead, many opine that if it weren’t for the second quarter cushion that was built, the Green Archers could have caught up.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I thought that La Salle had an excellent game plan. They threw a zone that at times placed three men atop the key to stop any drives. And on offense, they attacked every chance they got. Jamie Malonzo (who will get even better as he soaks in more experience) even posterized Thirdy Ravena while Encho Serrano scored on an and-one on Matt Nieto. Basically, everyone was attacking the interior regardless of the presence of Angelo Kouame.

After that Malonzo dunk on Thirdy and he started jawing against #0, I thought back to a pair of incidents… Joshua Webb talking smack to the Blue Eagles and then Ryan Buenafe putting his arm around the Archer and pointing to the scoreboard, and when Robert Bolick Jr. was a rookie for DLSU. Bolick forced Ravena to a turnover and began clipping in his face. That lit up Blue Mamba and he scored 31 points on Bolick and everyone else who was put in front of Ravena.

Just to clarify, Thirdy scored on a twisting drive and hit a jumper after the Malonzo dunk, but after that, he didn’t do much. Luckily, his teammates made up for the lack of offense and helped to make this a W.

Speaking of offense, the previous year, I pointed out how Ateneo tends to shoot a lot from the outside. When it goes it, it looks pretty, but when it doesn’t such as the game against La Salle, it gets ugly. Granted those were the looks La Salle was giving the team. But still, why not attack the interior instead of settling for jump shots? For a bit there, I was afraid that Ateneo would break UST’s number of attempts from the three-point arc (49 in their first outing) at the rate they were jacking up shots.

I noticed how our bigs grab the offensive board and then pass the ball out instead of immediately attacking the interior. If that is what is asked of them to do, well….  

And there was that stretch early in the fourth period when the team’s offense stagnated and they clearly ran out of ideas. You have to credit La Salle as they were daring us to shoot from the outside. Tyler Tio, who was simply superb for much of the game, began to dribble too much and use up the shot clock and no one knew what to do. 

I like that Tab Baldwin shows faith in the boys to know what to do or to get out of a jam. On the flipside, I thought that he waited just a bit too long to bring back the starters.

I like that he had faith in Thirdy to get the job done even if he was painfully off. With William Navarro cramping up, it was up to Mike Nieto and Gian Mamuyac to save the day.

Mike hit some big shots including that turn around j while Mamu simply took it to La Salle. That’s the way… attack. The Blue Eagles’ defense and the individual brilliance of some players saved the day.

Gripes aside, this was still a very good win. It kept Ateneo abreast of dangerous UST as the only unbeaten sides in the league.

We all know that the new season is still young and that the team can only get better. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Ateneo Blue Eagles Game 1: A good start and an even better finishing kick vs Adamson

A good start and an even better finishing kick
by rick olivares

Championships certainly aren’t won on opening day. But it is always nice to start on the right foot.

You can bet that was imperative that there was to be no ambush on opening day (especially after Adamson took them down in the very first game of season 81). You know that Ateneo has the better team, but still, you cannot rely on reputation or even assumptions. You have to go out and win it.

And the Ateneo Blue Eagles sure did, crushing Adamson with a late 13-0 flurry to take their first win of the season, 70-52.

Ateneo put the clamps on Adamson’s veterans who did not make an impact on the game – Jerrick Ahanmisi, Simon Camacho, and Jerom Lastimosa. New center Lenda Douanga looked lost and befuddled (I will chalk that up to opening game jitters because he has played well for the past two years, but maybe on this day, they probably wished they had Papi Sarr in uniform instead as he can clog that lane and battle Kouame inside). With the veterans not doing well, it was up to the newbies to try and carry the fort for them. The moments were few and far in between.

Lucky for the Soaring Falcons, their one-and-done player Velandre Chuaca (who is older than most of the players he went up against) caught fire in the third period where he was hitting all sorts of crazy shots including one from way out there. While it gave Adamson a chance, one man cannot do it alone. When he was finally shackled, that was it for Adamson.

It is hard to say much after only one game because there are so many factors that can affect the game. After three games have been played then it is safer to spot trends or to even make inferences.

I’ll say this though about Ateneo.

There was the gigil factor for many players. At times they looked a bit undisciplined – rushing shots, making poor decisions. Sometimes, they got lost in their switching (not all of it due to Adamson’s offensive schemes).  

On the other hand, they played great defense. They didn’t allow the Soaring Falcons’ veterans to provide some stability. Even last year’s early tormentor Vince Magbuhos (who since his first four games last season has regressed) was a non-factor. You can bet Ateneo will try to not allow Chuaca to run roughshod like he did this game when they meet next time.

Ateneo ruled the boards (54-42, challenged many a shot, and closed down that lane by registering an 8-3 advantage in blocks). Control of the boards gave them a slight advantage in fastbreak points, 8-5, and in second chance points, 13-11.

Angelo Kouame was huge for Ateneo as he tallied 17 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks, and 3 steals. His defense along with the offense supplied by Will Navarro and Thirdy Ravena got Ateneo off to a fast start.

The bench didn’t get the job done the first time around. In their next opportunity, they helped the team attain its biggest lead of the game at 22 or 23 points. Then came Chauca’s explosion.

Gian Mamuyac showed that he can really make an impact with his game like Thirdy Ravena albeit minus the thundering dunks. He played great defense and displayed his willingness to attack and create for teammates. He did well when Ateneo closed out Adamson with a 13-0 run to finish off Adamson.

Just wondering why Kouame needs to run out to Douanga on the three-point arc when he isn’t a threat from that distance then he has to quickly rotate back inside to protect that rim. No doubt, the other teams are seeing that and they will need to move that ball quickly to get inside and find others from drop passes and kick outs. I am sure thought it is all part of the game plan, but it bears watching how the other teams want to find a way to exploit this.

Nervy moments but otherwise, a huge response and an even bigger win (considering UST and UP won their opening matches).

As for Adamson, I think they will really need their veterans to play well. There are few of them and technically, this is only Lastimosa’s second year. Now you see what Sean Manganti brought to the table with his all-around play from the forward position. Maybe Aaron flowers will grow into that role. However, any chance for a win will also depend on Douanga’s playing well. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

My response to post Gilas loss to Italy: We go. Again.

We go. Again.
by rick olivares

In the wake of the Philippines’ 108-62 loss to Italy in the Fiba World Cup, you have people saying that we should stop putting our focus on basketball but turn our attention and efforts to other sports.

While I do agree that other sports should be given attention, supporting, financing, and whatnot, that doesn’t mean we should abandon basketball. Does it follow that if we focus on tennis or football we will have a shot as some huge titles? Not necessarily. 

What other countries have basketball as their national sport – Lithuania, Israel, Mongolia, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, Georgia, Venezuela, and Slovenia. Many other countries have basketball as a second sport either to football or hockey. If you look at the aforementioned countries, not many of them have won international titles in the basketball. Even footballing nations like England – and for a time, Spain and France – Colombia, and Chile haven’t really won much in international football Must they abandon that sport in favor of rugby, cricket, or basketball which is growing there as well?

When football picked up in the Philippines in 2011, our national team has won some and lost a bunch of heartbreakers. But we still go at it. Yet even in the midst of these runs, you have some quarters calling the team out for a lack of homegrown flavor (with more Filipinos born overseas dominating the roster). Everyone has something to say.

Being immersed in the local music scene, I often hear local musicians say that we Filipinos are some of the best musicians in the world. Maybe. Maybe not? But why do we blow our own horn? Others should say that. And well, name me one international breakout star who commands huge audiences, headlines, album sales? Lea Salonga? Freddie Aguilar did – for one song. Anyone else?

The losses in the international arena are painful, galling, and sometimes embarrassing.

Remember when our first all-PBA team got smashed in the 1990 Asian Games? The crowds at the Big Dome were sparse after that. 

The funny thing is people love to point to the PBA all the time as to blame for these losses. Hasn’t it occurred to you that many other countries have pro leagues as well and that doesn’t stop them from being good at the sport. 

Can it not also be that other countries – especially our Asian neighbors have either caught up or leapfrogged past us in the sport? How about boxing? There was a time when we had a number of champions in different eight classes. Now? Hmm. Does that stop our boxers from going at it again and again heartbreak aside? No. 

Time was in basketball our toughest rivals were China, Japan, and South Korea. In the past 10-15 years, the West Asian or Middle eastern countries have become powers in their own right. Now the Oceania countries Australia and New Zealand have joined the bracket and have made everything triply harder. 

And mind you, not many of them use naturalized players? 

Take a look at Iran. Are their players of mixed races? Nope. Do they have naturalized players on their roster? The rise of Iran as a basketball power is simply incredible. 

They put in a program that they have nurtured through the years. 

Us? Well, one of the national sports is nitpicking. And once more, many are playing that game. 

The funny thing is after every Asian Games or Olympics, there is this litany of finger-pointing and anger towards this and that. How we should do this and that and not do this and not do that. 

Yes, it can be disappointing and exasperating. We just go again and try to solve the problems. That’s part of the game.