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, June 19, 2017

France takes down valiant RP team in Fiba 3x3 World Cup

France takes down valiant RP team in Fiba 3x3 World Cup

In one of the highly-anticipated matches of the Fiba 3x3 World Cup, France asserted its height, experience, and talent in dispatching a young Philippine team, 22-11, to go up 2-0 in Group B play.

France, earlier winners over El Salvador, 21-5, once more found its strength in Angelo Tsagarakis who finished with a team-high 14 points while teammate Charles-Henri Bronchard provided the best dunk of the day.

The Philippines looked to attack the taller Frenchmen in hopes of keeping them off balance. Paras, looking to reprise his earlier heroics in the Philippines first win of the tourney (21-15 winners over Romania) missed on a drive with pressure from his taller French defender.

France missed a three-pointer but secured the loose ball and missed another three.

The 6’6” Charles Bronchard foiled Jeron Teng’s first two attempts. But the Filipinos showed that they too can play defense as JR Quinahan stripped Tsagarakis off the post up.

But Angelo Tsagarakis found teammate Dominique Gentil for a jumper to open the scoring, 1-0 France

Teng once more found difficulty against Bronchard and was unable drive. Unable to get inside the lane, Kiefer Ravena found JR who swished a three for a 2-1 lead.

But France, as they would do all match long, replied immediately, with a Tsar long bomb, 3-2. Gentil and Bronchard hit their lay-ups for a 5-2 lead but Paras went to the long bomb the deficit to one, 5-4.
Going back inside, Charly Pontens drove up the middle for a lay-up, 6-4, forcing the Philippines to call time out at the 6:57.

With the Filipinos double-teaming inside, France’s marksmen found the range. When the Filipinos played one-on-one defense, the home side attacked the basket.

Pontens ended the match with a long two with 1:47 left in the game clock.

The Filipinos ended their June 18 matches with a 1-1 record.

BaliPure: The Story of a Volleyball Team Part 2: The Cavaliers Conundrum and going KD

The BaliPure Purest Water Defender post-Game 2 Finals win.

BaliPure: The Story of a Volleyball Team
Part 2: The Cavaliers Conundrum and going KD
by rick olivares

“Where can I watch the NBA Finals? It’s Game 2!”

Jennifer Keddy’s forehead was knotted in concern. There was no cable television in her condo room. Worse, no wifi.

“Ugh,” she sighed. “Where do I go?”

Not only was the former Cal Poly Mustang a huge fan of volleyball but she was also nuts about basketball. Although she hails from Missoula, Montana (her family now makes their home in California), she roots for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Some eight thousand miles away from home and after spending months overseas playing in Europe and now in Asia, there were some things that kept her sane and well, feeling that taste of home. Basketball was one of them.

In the midst of the NBA Finals, the BaliPure Purest Water Defenders were 1-1 in their semi-finals series with the Creamline Cool Smashers in their semi-finals series. They socked it to Creamline in Game One then fell in the next match stalling their march into the finals. BaliPure won the even numbered sets but lost all three odd-numbered sets that saw the series knotted at a game apiece.  

Game Two was a letdown. BaliPure started out well then stepped off the gas pedal allowing Creamline to snatch the first set. And it was the same in the third and fifth sets, take the lead then give up points due to errors in bunches, rally from a deficit but only to fall short.

In the biggest game of BaliPure’s two-year history and a chance to better the two third place finishes the previous season, Keddy was worried about the NBA Finals and her Cavs.

“Oh, we’ll bounce back in Game Three. I know it,” she said with a lot of conviction.

True enough, BaliPure bushwhacked Creamline to the tune of three sets. It was a clinic the purest Water Defenders put out there as they silenced the huge Creamline crowd. Keddy and Grethcel Soltones each scored 13 points while Jang Bualee and Risa Sato both added 10 each. They put back that wall that stymied the awesome Kuttika Kaewpin and Laura Schaudt and kept Alyssa Valdez mostly silent (she scattered her 13 points across three sets).

BaliPure was going to the finals against the defending champions, Pocari Sweat. As for Keddy’s Cavs, they were down, 3-0.

When the Cavaliers took Game Three from the Golden State Warriors on the 10th of June, it was the same day as BaliPure lost the Reinforced Conference Finals to Pocari in four sets.

BaliPure took the first set then fell apart in the next three.

Although they took the first set, the body language of the players was bad. And conspicuously absent was middle hitter Risa Sato.

The team managers and coaching staff were worried about Sato. Since she was approached by officials from two other squads who played in the semi-finals to sign with them after the end of the first conference, she wasn’t the same player. The pretty Fil-Japanese player seemed bothered and confused. Every player save for Sato had re-signed with the club for the next conference. This left the coaches and team managers angry.

During game one, she sulked in one corner and covered her head in a towel after her poor play. Her general malaise infected everyone and the team looked nothing like the juggernaut that assaulted teams during the preliminaries ad the semi-finals.

Sure they were playing the defending champions. Sure Krystal Rivers was as good as advertised. But the team’s dip in play was shocking.

The Lady Warriors, in addition to their championship pedigree, was made up of mostly seasoned veterans many of who have been out of college for a while now. Only Jeanette Panaga was still in school. For the Purest Water Defenders, aside from their imports, it was only Lizlee Ann Pantone who was done with school. However, that wasn’t an excuse. “We had our chances,” lamented head coach Roger Gorayeb. “It still isn’t over. There is still Game Two. If you play the way you should then we can win the championship.”

“Maybe it’s best that Cleveland lost,” quipped Keddy. “when they lose we play well. I know it’s an awkward thing for me to say but it is what it is.”

Then Keddy paused, “Time to go into KD (Kevin Durant or a play on her surname) mode.”

Like Cleveland or Golden State, one player wasn’t going to win it. If the Purest Water Defenders were to bring home the trophy, they needed more than Keddy or “KD” as she called herself on game day. They needed BaliPure’s version of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Steph Curry to step up. And that meant Grethcel Soltones, Risa Sato, and Jang Bualee.

Bualee is the longest serving import in Philippine club volleyball. Since she made her debut with Gorayeb’s San Sebastian Lady Stags all those years ago. The Thai player has romped away with two Most Valuable Player awards, six scoring titles, and a few titles here and there.

At 34, Bualee looks lean and in shape. Yet a shoulder injury during Game Two in the Creamline series hampered her effectivity. Just hitting the ball hurt. “Matanda na ako,” she said in Filipino which she speaks reasonably well. “Pero I want to play and win pa while I can.”

Bualee has served as this team’s mother hen. She spices up team practices with her concoctions for mango dips and other foods. She looks out for the younger players and dispenses advice. “Matagal na ako kay coach Roger,” she puts it. “Responsible lang tayo.”

Now if BaliPure wanted to extend the series, they needed a very good response from Bualee.

Come game time, Keddy pointed to her heart and then her temple. “KD mode,” she paused. “Is in here.”

Keddy and Bualee delivered as promised with each scoring 20 points. So did Soltones, Jerrili Malabanan, and Sato who was her usual buoyant and smiling self. Keddy and Sato registered 10 block points between themselves.

After the game, team manager Gil Cortez patted Sato on the shoulder. “See what happens when you play well,” he said as the middle hitter beamed back.

However, the win revealed BaliPure’s flaw. The Purest Water Defenders won in five sets. They lost sets two and three despite going up by two each time, 24-22. They failed to close it out. Yet in set four and five, in the same position needing only a point to win it, they managed to do so.

Whether they turned a corner was anyone guess. But inside the locker room, I made sure to mention the predilection to give up leads and not close sets or games out. “We cannot afford to step off the gas pedal,” I said to the team.

“I’d like Cleveland to win, you know,” said a happy and relieved Keddy as the team made its way out of the Philsports Arena. “But I’d like to win too.”

Even if the Cavs don’t win the championship?

“Yep. This is for the team (BaliPure) and for myself.”


READ PART 1 here

Saturday, June 17, 2017

BaliPure: A story of a volleyball team Part 1: The Perfect Storm

BaliPure: A story of a volleyball team
Part 1: The Perfect Storm
by rick olivares

It began on a dark and rainy Thursday night. The metropolis had been punished for days with late afternoon downpours that ground the late evening rush hour into a screeching halt as flash floods engulfed the city streets.

Even in the relatively safe confines of a gym, the BaliPure Purest Water Defenders were in the midst of their own personal and maybe, perfect storm.

The Purest Water Defenders were in their final tune-up match before their semi-finals series of the Reinforced Conference of the Premier Volleyball League against the Creamline Cool Smashers. The Petron Tri-Active Spikers, in the midst of their preparations for the Philippine Super Liga All-Filipino Cup were playing BaliPure in a five-set practice match at the San Sebastian Gym along Recto, Manila. Not a best-of-three match. Just five whole sets regardless how many sets one wins for both sides to work out the kinks.

The whole week, the Purest Water Defenders seemed to be in a funk. They sauntered from one bad practice to another. No one could hit the ball properly much less receive and dig. Services were even worse. Nothing seemed to go right. Only middle hitter Risa Sato and utility spiker Jerrili Malabanan were the ones who did well enough in all the practices. As a result, the atmosphere got testy. And head coach Roger Gorayeb was at a breaking point.

After Petron’s Mela Tunay served the ball dropped in an open space between three players who all stared at one another as if to ask, “who’s going to receive the ball?”

Point for Petron. Gorayeb blew his top and yanked libero Alyssa Eroa, yelling at her at the top of his voice. “Ikaw ang libero ikaw ang dapat unang kumuha nun!” he thundered. “Kung ayaw mo maglaro ay puwede ka na umuwi.”

Eroa stayed but sobbed by the baseline.

And if things could get any worse, utility spiker Jorelle Singh fell to the court in pain with a sharp cry.

Singh’s shrill cry immediately silenced the gym. Some of the San Sebastian Stags basketball players lingered in the floor above the gym and they too fell quiet.

“Diyos ko,” thought aloud Gorayeb who wondered if things could get any worse. Team officials immediately tended to Singh whose face was contorted in pain. Singh has severely sprained her ankle. The immediate prognosis was that she was going to miss the semi-finals.

“Diyos ko,” once more uttered Gorayeb in disbelief. The week had gone from bad to worse.

The team continued their horrible play in the third set losing by a mile. In the first three sets and part of the fourth set, BaliPure played disjointed when guest players Jang Bualee and Jennifer Keddy were on the floor. When they were rotated out, the team played better prompting Gorayeb to sit them for the half of the fourth and the fifth set.

“The team actually plays better when we’re off the floor,” noted Keddy during a team huddle that had Gorayeb nearly losing his mind.

“Why?” he retorted rather testily. “Why is that so when both of you should elevate the team?” The coach then retreated inside the athletics office of San Sebastian to cool off.

The 6'4 Keddy who hails from Montana, USA, was also battling homesickness. After practice, she would spend her nights at a nearby Starbucks just chatting with her family back home. Once the Reinforced Conference was done, she was to fly back home and stay for a week before flying out to Germany for another tournament. "It's tough," was all she could say of her situation.

BaliPure came alive in the fourth and fifth sets with Malabanan torching a Petron squad that featured many of her teammates from far Eastern University. The Tri-Active Spikers’ head coach was Malabanan’s college coach… Shaq De Los Santos. During the recent UAAP tournament, Malabanan was benched for long periods.

When Gorayeb and BaliPure team management headed by former PBA Rookie of the Year Gil Cortez, tried to sign her along with Gel Cayuna, they arrived at an impasse as De Los Santos didn’t seemed inclined to release both to the second year volleyball club. Instead, he tried to send both to PSL side, Cocolife.

Malabanan’s mother, seething with anger over her daughter’s benching vented her ire on De Los Santos. After FEU officials interceded, Malabanan was BaliPure bound. Cayuna though was sent off to Cocolife.

Malabanan wasted no time is showing her college coach and volleyball fans what they were missing. In the Purest Water Defenders’ first ever PVL match, against tough Philippine Air Force no less, Malabanan was named Player of the Game for BaliPure.

Since then, she’s been a reliable cog in the BaliPure machine.

Yet in this practice match versus Petron, the Tri-Active Spikers took four of the five sets (although BaliPure came alive in the fourth and fifth sets).

The strong late play of BaliPure helped ease the mood of Gorayeb. However, it was the post-practice short talks that settled this team down and fixed their mindset heading towards the semis.

First to speak was Gorayeb who put it in blunt terms that the only way they will win is if they play as a team with everyone doing their part. He keyed on to Keddy who he specifically said he needs her to block regardless if it is in her zone or not. “The girls will look up to you because you are the one who plays internationally and have all this experience,” he underscored. “We need you all to play for each other.”

Team manager Gil Cortez came next and he harped about the adversity the team had gone through. Being abandoned by its former players who all left for the Perlas Spikers and Creamline. “This is an accidental team. A second year team that was built from scratch,” clarified Cortez.

Of the collective chip on the team’s shoulders from their separate failed campaigns in the NCAA and the UAAP not to mention their PVL.

A couple of other teams on the eve of the semis made entreaties to sign Sato and a couple of other players for the next conference – the All-Filipino; a move that greatly angered BaliPure’s management and coaching staff. They had written to the PVL’s officers to censure the teams if not penalize them. It should be in memo form, Cortez demanded, if not the team would wear black armbands come the semi-finals.

The league acquiesced. And rightly so.

Next came the other team manager, Paulo Turno, who added on to Cortez’ points. And lastly, I spoke about seizing the day and not letting failure define them. Their determination to rise about their shortcomings will determine them.

The players were attentive. And the messages sank in.

Team captain Grethcel Soltones posted on her Facebook wall the very next day stating that she got the messages.

That Saturday, June 3, the Purest Water Defenders took on the Cool Smashers. BaliPure looked to take the first set yet bungled their way closing it out as Creamline escaped 25-22.

Midway through the second set, the team found their groove with Keddy coming alive hammering running spikes, returning over-received gifts, and blocking Creamline’s Laura Schaudt and dynamo spiker Kuttika Kaewpin. BaliPure won the next three sets in impressive fashion to take Game One.

“Kaya naman pala,” wondered aloud Gorayeb as Keddy slammed the door shut on Creamline (along with Risa Sato’s superb game).

It was Keddy’s most impressive performance thus far as she scored a game high 24 points including six service aces and five block points. Sato added 13 points and likewise shut down Kuttika.

“If we play like this, no one can beat us,” suggested Gorayeb inside a jubilant BaliPure locker room.

The team roared in unison.

While team flashed its potential, the next game would reveal a team lacking in maturity and mental toughness. And it would eventually tell on their campaign.


Click on the link below for the next part.