MANILA, Philippines – The already-heated Finals series between San Miguel Beer and TNT KaTropa in the 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup added another chapter during Sunday night's Game 3 at the Big Dome.
Emotions were already running high inside the court, given the physical nature of the contest. In a crucial match that would break a 1-1 deadlock in the best-of-seven series, the KaTropa and the Beermen went toe-to-toe in the first half, with neither team truly taking control.
The game took a turn when SMB guard Chris Ross engaged in a war of words with TNT's stand-in import Mike Myers and their Governors' Cup import Michael Craig, who were sitting at courtside. With the other SMB players and their staff getting involved, Araneta bouncers de-escalated the situation by asking the TNT reinforcements to shift to the team bench.
Ross and Ryan Reyes got tangled up moments later, leading the SMB guard to be called for a flagrant foul that forced him to sit on the bench for three minutes. But the true drama occurred as both teams were exiting the dugout.
One of the TNT imports was accused of slamming on the fence that led backstage, which hurt an SMB official. The Beermen's staff made their displeasure known to PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa, who promptly summoned TNT team manager Virgil Villavicencio to his office.
Thankfully for both sides, there were no more scuffles in the second half. San Miguel pulled away then fended off TNT in the fourth period for a 109-97 win, giving them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Afterward, all parties were civil when asked about the incident at halftime.
"Kanina, lahat naglabasan ang intensity ng mga players, to the point na magkaroon sila ng kaguluhan doon sa court," said SMB coach Leo Austria. "But I told the players na we have to be focused, and we don't want to engage in any untoward incident against them, dahil we're trying to protect the image of San Miguel Beer."
"'Yan ang unang pino-protektahan ng boss namin, especially si Ramon Ang. Ayaw nila ng ganyan. But," Austria was quick to add, "we will not back down."
[The intensity of the players showed earlier, to the point where they were nearly scuffling inside the court. But I told the players that we have to be focused, and we don't want to engage in any untoward incident against them because we are trying to protect the image of San Miguel Beer. That's what our boss wants to protect. They don't like those kinds of incident. But at the same time, we will not back down.]
Meanwhile, TNT coach Nash Racela said he was not aware of what happened. "Hindi ko alam kung ano nangyari," he insisted.
[I have no idea what happened.]
TNT guard Jayson Castro, who had 17 points but also 10 turnovers in the loss, said they simply paid no attention to what was happening, as they could not afford distractions in the series.
"Hindi na namin pinapansin 'yun," he explained. "Sa team namin, 'yung naglalaro sa court, 'yun ang concern namin. 'Yung mga distraction na ganoon, ako hindi ko alam 'yun. Kahit mga teammates ko, hindi alam 'yun."
[We were not paying attention. We're focused on what's going inside the court.]
For San Miguel veteran Arwind Santos, however, their performance in the second half showed that their opponents cannot afford to rattle their cage, so to speak.
"Ang maganda sa team namin, pagka nagagalit," he said. "'Yun 'yung lagi naming nire-remind sa isa't isa – na okay lang magalit, dahil ayaw lang namin matalo talaga."
"Kung gusto nila ng ganoong laro, pagbibigyan namin," Santos said. "Pero kailangan, huwag kaming mawala sa gusto naming gawin."
[What's good with our team is when we get a little angry. We remind each other that it's okay to be angry because none of us wants to lose. If that's the kind of game that they want to play, then we'll give them what they want. But we still have to stick to what we have to do.]
The series takes a two-game break before returning to the Big Dome on Wednesday for Game 4.
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