MANILA, Philippines—Even as he acknowledged that their now infamous brawl against Australia is “absolutely unacceptable,” Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes still rushed to the defense of his players and explained the events that led up to the unfortunate incident.
The Philippines lost to Australia by default, 89-53, in their FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifier on Monday at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, when the game was called to a halt with 1:57 left in the third period.
At that point, the Philippines only had one player available – Baser Amer. This, after nine players were thrown out in the wake of the bench-clearing melee, and after June Mar Fajardo and Gabe Norwood had fouled out as well. Australia had four players ejected on their side.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Reyes maintained that they “didn’t want it to happen.”
“It’s absolutely unacceptable,” he said.
However, the coach also noted that the Gilas players were simply reacting to what they felt were dirty tactics used by the Boomers, particularly forward Daniel Kickert.
According to Reyes, Kickert had been provoking the Philippine team during the warm-ups, when he hit Carl Bryan Cruz, Matthew Wright, Roger Pogoy and Calvin Abueva.
The free-for-all at the 4:01 mark of the third quarter started when Pogoy committed a hard offensive foul on Australia’s Chris Goulding, and Kickert responded by decking him from behind. It was a full-on brawl from there, with the normally mild-mannered Jayson Castro seen leaping for a punch on Kickert before the rest of the Gilas players spilled onto the court.
“The foul of Pogoy on Goulding was an offensive foul, and it was a basketball play,” Reyes maintained. “But he (Kickert) was the one who came in and decked Pogoy (for the) fifth time.”
“You don’t expect to do it to a team five times, and not expect them to retaliate, so that’s what happened,” he explained. “Unfortunately, that triggered the entire brawl.”
When asked for Kickert’s motives, Reyes opined that the Australian forward may just have been trying to out-psych the Filipinos.
“But whatever his motives is, there is no excuse for him doing what he did during the warm-up,” said Reyes. “Nakakita ka na ba ng kalaban na tumira sa warm-up? Sa lay-up line? Round-robin, hindi pa nag-uumpisa, pinagtitira na tayo.”
“What do you expect us to do?” he added.
Already, reactions from all over the world are pouring in regarding the incident. Several PBA players have expressed their shock and disappointment at what happened, which Reyes says is understandable.
“I understand the disappointment, I understand that some our embarrassed,” said the coach.
However, he stressed that these critics do not really know what occurred, and the events that led to the brawl that has since made it to international websites.
“It’s something that you have to be there to know what really went down,” said Reyes. “I know a lot of Filipinos, especially a lot of PBA players are saying their piece, but they don’t know what happened.”
“They don’t really know what went on,” he said. “That’s all that we have to say.”
“You have to be in the team, you have to be in our circle to really understand what went down.”