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.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ateneo-UP Round 1: Five

This appears in

by rick olivares photo by nonoy lacza

Thinking of this year’s first meeting between Ateneo and the University of the Philippines, I couldn’t help that perhaps more than ever, it’s like a sibling rivalry.

Consider how the bloodlines have intertwined.

There are four Ateneans on the Fighting Maroons team: Miggy Maniego, Mike Gamboa, Martin Pascual, and Paolo Romero. Team manager Bert Mendoza and their team trainer are from the grade and high schools of Loyola as well.

Conversely, UP head coach Ricky Dandan and assistant Joey Mendoza have worked with the Ateneo Basketball School as well as the Lady Eagles for a number of years having come over along with former Maroons and Eagles coach Joe Lipa during the late 90s Ateneo basketball renaissance.

While the ties are there, I expected no quarter to be given between the two teams. And with the Fighting Maroons fielding three sparkplugs like Jett Manuel, Jelo Montecastro, and Maniego, I expected them to play with a lot of spunk and hustle. As for Romero, new to the rivalry but for the first time on the other side of the fence, the forward showed plenty of emotion after making a stop and a shot.

On the other hand, I expected Ateneo to come out like firing. Instead, it was as if they were strolling around nearby Gateway Mall. And the crowd, fattened by a three-peat, only got up (and riled up) when Maroons forward Carlo Gomez tried some rough stuff with Kirk Long and when he threw a punch at Nico Salva for which he got caught and suspended for UP’s next match against Far Eastern University. Oh, I also heard that since I had missed the last three Ateneo games that the crowd only got up when Kiefer Ravena dunked the ball against the University of the East Red Warriors who hung around for long stretches.

As bored as Ateneo looked on the floor – perhaps save for Long who always has abundant reserves of energy and Ravena – they stayed close to UP.

I thought that the Blue Eagles’ spacing on the floor made it difficult to throw double teams at Greg Slaughter as Emman Monfort and Ravena hit them with several hand-offs and a backdoor cut.

With fewer than three to play in the first quarter and Ateneo’s second unit in, they held the Maroons but were unable to put points on the board. As good as the Blue Eagles’ starting unit is, the bench has yet to produce consistently. I thought that Greg Slaughter gave the blue and white a presence in the middle, it has stalled the development of Justin Chua who had a breakout year in Season 73.

Of course, the season is hardly at its halfway point and even with the Blue Eagles’ current win streak, it’s still too early to draw sweeping conclusions. But the one thing I will stand by is how the boys at times seem to coast. (I see Greg Slaughter conserving himself on both ends of the floor though). It’s as if they have been served the same unappetizing appetizer and they’re juts waiting for the entrée that is the Final Four so they can kick in the afterburners.

Okay, I missed the La Salle match where they showed the Taft foes that what happens in the pre-season stays in the pre-season. So far they have been waylaying foes on the court and maybe the problem is more mental than anything but I’d still like them to be razor sharp.

As seemingly dull as Ateneo’s sword was after 20 minutes, they connected on 50% of their field goals while holding UP scoreless for over four minutes to take control of the game. If Alinko Mbah gave UP a fleeting lead to close out the first period, Ravena answered with a lay up at the buzzer to close out the half. The score was 42-31 in favor of the boys in blue and white.

Instead of going for the kill, Ateneo lapsed into its longer dry spell in the tournament thus far after going scoreless from the five-minute mark of the third quarter all the way to 6:47 of the final frame.

The Maroons scored eight straight points before Emman Monfort had enough. Monfort’s shot on Gamboa finally woke Ateneo from its siesta as Slaughter followed it up with an and-one and Long’s triple that broke the Maroons. The match ended 77-57 for Ateneo’s fifth straight win. For the first time all season long, all five Blue Eagle starters were in double digits as they pounded their Diliman counterparts 66-35.

Post-match, Ateneo head boss Norman Black talked about the defense holding when the well hit dry. At first, the Maroons were whipping the ball around and finding the open man. Once the defense got in the face of UP’s perimeter shooters while closing the driving lanes, the Maroons struggled to buy a shot.

When asked how he is able to generate some offense while playing lockdown on opposing scorers, Long acknowledged that it was always good to have a seven-footer guarding the lane because he could always funnel his man towards him. And besides, it takes the five men on the floor (as well as the bench) to win basketball games.

So warts and all as well as treys for daggers, I’ll enjoy number five.

Ateneo 77Ravena 15, Slaughter 14, Long 14, Monfort 13, Salva 10, Gonzaga 6, Golla 2, Chua 2, Tiongson 1, Pessumal 0, Cipriano 0, Capacio 0, Erram 0, Sumalinog 0, Austria 0.

UP 57Silungan 8, Manuel 8, Gamboa 8, Mbah 7, Maniego 7, Romero 6, Montecastro 6, Gomez 5, Pascual 2, Wierzba 0, Fortu 0, Juruena 0. 


My only other Ateneo Blue Eagles piece so far this Season 74: 29.

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