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.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Fil-Am Kihei Clark wins NBTC All-Star Game MVP

Fil-Am Kihei Clark wins NBTC All-Star Game MVP
by rick olivares

Fil-American Kihei Clark came out of nowhere to led Team Heart to a 99-91 victory over Team Hustle in the 2018 SM-NBTC Division One High School All-Star Game at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Clark, who hails from Los Angeles, California and is headed for Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference, scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished off six assists in a scintillating performance that overshadowed FilAm Sports USA teammate Jalen Green whose high-flying dunks rocked the MOA Arena crowd.

“I came over here and didn’t expect much but this has been a very memorable trip for me,” said the 19-year old Clark.

Clark was awarded the Most Outstanding Player Award by none other the Robert Jaworski, the man dubbed, “the Living Legend”.

“I didn’t know about Mr. Jaworski but he was awful nice,” noted Clark. “It was an honor to be honest. And his words of encouragement – he told me to keep working hard and I might be able to see my NBA dream come true. This has been a pleasant trip, I’ll say.”

Team Heart broke a 75-all deadlock with a triple by Clark and a tip-in by Kai Sotto. Terence Fortea and Clark each drilled a pair of triples to stretch the lead to 90-82, 2:40 to play. Team Heart, coached by Topex Robinson and Joe Silva then coasted the rest of the way for the win.

The crowd waited with baited breath for the aerial exploits of Jalen Green whose three dunks, including one over Kai Sotto, had everyone jumping up and down.

“He had a tough time,” noted Clark of Green who finished with 11 points on 5-11 shooting.

Fil-Ams Jalen Green, Kihei Clark, and Elijah Jackson talk about their NBTC experience

Fil-Ams Jalen Green, Kihei Clark, and Elijah Jackson talk about their NBTC experience.
by rick olivares

As the FilAm USA team wraps up its second stint in the SM-NBTC National Finals, its head coach, Bong Ulep and three of its players took the time to reflect on this unique basketball journey.

FilAm USA finished this trip with a 2-1 record as they booked an Elite Eight ticket where they fell to National University, 98-92.

In that match, 16-year old Jalen Green scored 51 points, a tournament record. Plus, his high-flying dunks and athleticism won over the crowd.

“It would have been nice to get to the next round, but with our seven-man rotation, we couldn’t properly compete,” explained Ulep. “We need at least a 10-man line-up. If (last year’s sensation, seven-foot) Kamaka Hepa were here, we would have gone farther.”

Hepa, the Texas-bound forward-center, broke his nose in a game right before the Manila trip.

“When we come over to Manila, hindi kami magdadala ng kung sino-sino, we bring kids here who for several reasons. First, it is to showcase their talent so the Philippines provides an option for them especially those with no US NCAA Division One offers. If possible, while chasing their NCAA and NBA dreams, they can also make themselves available for the Philippine national team; at least those who aren’t playing for the US. And second, it is to re-connect with their roots. Many of them are third or fourth generation born in the United States. Their moms never even stepped foot here. So it’s good to reconnect.”

Speaking of reconnecting, 19-year old Kihei Clark who hails from Los Angeles and is bound for Atlantic Coast Conference school, Virginia, says he was aware of his Filipino roots from his mother’s side. “My mom’s family is from Ilocos but they moved to Hawaii a long time ago.”

Kihei was named for the town in Western Hawaii where his parents first met. “Yeah, my name has a nice story to it and so does my game. My father, Malik Clark, played for Division 2 school, Hawaii-Hilo, so that is where I got my basketball inspiration,” shared the 5’10 Clark. “But I was excited about coming over.”

Despite his relative small size for his position, Clark plays much bigger than that. The court general was pursued by Georgia Tech, Gonzaga, and UCLA. “Going to Virginia, a top-ranked school, places me one step away from the ultimate dream and that is the NBA,” said Clark who averaged 14.0 points, 9.5 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals versus 3.5 turnovers in the SM-NBTC National Finals.

Clark cites Tony Parker, Steve Nash, and Chris Paul as his influences.

On the other hand, the six-foot-six crowd-pleasing Jalen Green, who averaged a NBTC-high 33.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 1.5 assists, points to Kevin Durant as his major inspiration. “His length, athleticism, his court savvy and he plays both ends of the court, I’d like to pattern my game after him,” disclosed Green. “When I was a kid, I played baseball and soccer, but when I started playing basketball, I said, ‘I could do something with this’ so I started practicing harder. When I told my parents I want to concentrate on being the best possible basketball player I can be, they pushed me to get better and perform at a higher level.

Green, who has represented the United States in an age group that already forbids him from representing the Philippines, is described by Ulep as someone who keeps his feet firmly on the ground despite all the accolades and hype even over in the United States.

“It’s very exciting but I block out all the hype and keep my head tight,” said Green. “Knowing people say good things, I feel happy but I don’t want it to get to my head.”

“I wanted to win,” added Green of the loss to NU. “Although we came up short, I am happy about this experience. And it’s nice to know that I broke the NBTC scoring record. That wasn’t something I was after because I wanted the W. For me, the biggest thing is there is someone in the crowd who has never seen my play so I want them to think good things.”

The third in FilAm Sports’ heralded trio is 17-year old Elijah Jackson who has committed to Eastern Washington University. The EWU Eagles play in the Big Sky Conference. “The Eagles were the first team that recruited me and when I visited, I fell in love with their program, system, and coaching staff,” said Jackson. “I am very excited about this opportunity. I just have to keep working every day if I want a chance to go to the NBA.”

“Manila is always a place I wanted to go since my family has never been here,” shared Jackson. “I am now the first in my family to step foot here.”

With regards to his new teammates in FilAm Sports, Jackson says the whole trip has been a richly rewarding one. “Because of basketball, I get to travel, meet people, and see the opportunities in front of me. But for this trip -- these are great dudes,” he said referring to his teammates. “And it is an honor to play with them as they are going to good places.”

Collectively, Clark, Green, and Jackson expressed that the consolation for exiting the NBTC tourney is they have had a chance to go around town. “The breakfast isn’t so bad,” said Clark.

“I always thought that chicken adobo was my favorite but I think chicken tocino is right up there now as well,” summed up Green.

With Kihei Clark

With Jalen Green

With Elijah Jackson

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Xavier celebrates BBI cagefest double

Xavier celebrates BBI cagefest double
by rick olivares

Xavier School’s 12-Under and 17-Under squads celebrated a double championship last Saturday, March 17, with twin victories in the Smart Breakdown Basketball Invitationals Nationwide Battle of Champions. It was especially sweet as both squads accomplished the feat on their home court of the Jacinto Tiu Gym.

In the finals of the 12-Under Division, Brent Tiu led the Golden Stallions with 15 points and 10 rebounds, in an 80-43 rout of San Miguel Elementary School of Bulacan. The Golden Stallions led throughout the match and were never threatened as the SME Angels were thoroughly outgunned and outplayed.

“Nakita namin na malayo yung skill and talent level namin,” pointed out Bulacan coach Christian Canlapan. “This is something we have to learn from and if we have the opportunity to come back next year, play better.”

In the juniors division of 17-Under, both Xavier and Centerphil Montessori of Iloilo Silver Knights battled tooth and nail in the first 13 minutes after which the Golden Stallions broke a 22-all deadlock to take the half, 40-31.

Come the third period, Xavier stepped on the gas pedal behind Miguel Tan and Martin Sadhwani to hike the lead to 61-45 after 30 minutes. The Silver Knights tried to make one last go at the championship but Tan and Sadhwani once more combined to finish off the Illongos, 79-60.

“My goal was to win this game, this championship for the graduating seniors (Sadhwani, Steven Tiu, and Nathan Chan),” said Tan who finished with a game high 27 points and 12 rebounds. “We lost a couple of championships this year so this is a good way to end the season – with a title.”

Sadhwani earlier in the day towed Xavier to the championship round by scoring 35 points in the 75-74 semi-finals win over Montessori De San Ildefonso Bulacan including the game-winning triple with 1:07 left. In the championship match, Sadhwani tallied 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists in his final match for the Golden Stallions. “It’s a good way to go out,” summed up Sadhwani.

Named to the U-17 Mythical Five were Xavier’s Miguel Tan, Emilio Aguinaldo College of Cavite’s JR Ilustrisimo, Centerphil Montessori’s Ian Carl Gasacao, and MDSI Bulacan’s Dan Angelo PariƱas and Joderick Inductivo. Gasacao was named the Best in Defense while Xavier guard Lance Alandy Dy was awarded a trophy for Best in Assists.

Miguel Tan was named Most Valuable Player.

For the Under-12 Division, the Mythical Five awardees were Paulo Torno of St. Thomas More of Cavite, Ceejay Pacapat of Bukidnon Faith Christian Academy, Clark Pengson of Bulacan San Miguel Elementary School, and Xavier’s Brent Tiu and Paulo Rodriguez. Rodriguez was adjudged the Best in Assists while Torno bagged the Best Defender Award. Brent Tiu took home the MVP trophy.

A Golden Ending

A Golden Ending
by rick olivares

Martin Sadhwani leaped high in the air to corral a high forward pass. As he landed, he took one step then kissed the ball off the glass to give Xavier School its biggest lead of the match, 77-55, against Centerphil Montessori of Iloilo with time down to 1:24 in the Under-17 championship of the Smart Breakdown Basketball Invitationals Nationwide Battle of Champions.

The graduating Golden Stallion landed in a heap as cramps finally grounded him. It was his team’s second game of the day and like his other teammates, Sadhwani was tired, Earlier, his heroics saw Xavier squeak past tough Montessori De San Ildefonso of Bulacan in the semi-finals. Sadhwani, the son of entrepreneur and Ateneo Graduate School professor Rajan Sadhwani and fashion maven Apples Aberin, scored 13 points in the final period including the game-winning shot for Xavier that had to rally past the squad of head coach John Paul Magbitang.

As the seconds ticked away in the championship match against Iloilo, Sadhwani lay next to the Xavier bench and through gritted teeth, managed both a pained and joyous smile.

About three weeks ago, Sadhwani and his teammates stood in disbelief as they lost in the title game of the Breakdown Basketball Invitations U-17 championship to San Beda. Thrice they played the Red Cubs during the season. Three times they came away losers including two in title matches. San Beda was supposed to represent the National Capital Region in the BBI Nationwide Battle of Champions, but a scheduling conflict with the SM-NBTC National Finals saw them offer their slot to Xavier.

“It wasn’t easy for us to accept the spot because we didn’t earn it,” reflected Xavier head coach Carlo Tan. “But since San Beda wasn’t available, why not? The challenge was adjusting everyone’s mindset because they thought the season was over. Some were attending to retreats and graduation practice.”

For Sadhwani, it meant one more chance to go out a winner before college beckoned. This school year, the Golden Stallions had played in four championship games and came away with a winner’s medal once. “This would mean a lot to me if we win because this will be my last game in a Xavier uniform,” said Sadhwani before the match. He resisted moving to Ateneo a year before as he wanted to finish out his high school in the former’s brother Jesuit school. “It would make my last year in high school even more memorable.”

“I want to win this for the graduating seniors,” declared Xavier center Miguel Tan who still has a year left to play. “It would be a nice parting gift for them; for Martin, Steven Tiu, and Nathan Chan.”

During this end-of-the-season pocket tournament – the first nationwide championship series for BBI that involved six cities – Sadhwani missed two games; Tan, one, and Chan, the title match. For a while, Chan contemplated on missing one last school requirement to play, but school came first.

Yet when it was all said and done, the handsome trophy, medals as well as individual awards handed out, Tan had kept his promise. The Batang Gilas center scored 35 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and blocked four shots to lead Xavier to a 79-60 triumph. Sadhwani finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists including two nifty passes to Tan that led to buckets.

“Promise kept,” quipped Tan who pocketed the Most Valuable Player Award in addition to a Mythical Five selection.

Over by the Xavier bench, Lance Alandy Dy who played stellar in Nathan Chan’s absence, gave Steven Tiu a tearful hug. Sadhwani and Tan shook hands.

Golden ending, Martin?

“Yeah,” he smiled. “Definitely, golden.”