CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- A controversial referee decision sparked a brawl between supporters and players of NLEx Intertown Basketball Cup finalists Apalit and Guagua teams during the championship game held at Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center Thursday afternoon.
The “no-whistle” decision of the referee on what is claimed to be a foul on Team Apalit star player Encho Serrano, who was about to take a supposed winning shot, irked supporters and players of the said team.
Team Apalit started hot with 8-0 from the consecutive successful shots made by Serrano, and Team Guagua continued to trail until the start of the game’s fourth quarter.
But in the middle of the last quarter, Team Guagua took its first lead and the two teams have been jostling, with the teams exchanging one to three-point lead in their respective scores.
With around 30 seconds remaining in the game, Team Guagua scored another shot, making the score 79-80 in favor of them but with less than six seconds remaining, ball possession was with Team Apalit.
The ball was inbounded to Serrano and was about to drive in the court and take a winning but was boxed-out and pressed by Team Guagua players until the clock ran out of time.
Supporters and officials of Team Apalit are suggesting a foul but referees maintained their decision that there was no foul in the play.
Supporters from both sides of the court then started shouting and throwing bottles inside the court and a rumble ensued inside the court with players and supporters taking on each other and with the referee.
Referee Mark Roba confirmed that he was also punched on the right side of his face but failed to identify who did it.
“Meron pong sumuntok pero okay lang naman po,” Roba said.
“Wala naman po kasing talagang foul. May five seconds pang natitira tapos iyong depensa nakatayo lang kaso si Serrano sinisiksik niya sarili niya. Alanganin naman kasi ilang seconds na lang,” added Roba when asked to explain the controversial decision.
But Apalit Mayor Peter Nucom maintained that there was a foul on their player “as it was evident that he already stumbled and fell on his way to the court.”
“Maganda iyong laban pero all of sudden ganyan nga iyong nangyari. Nakita naman natin nagkandatumba-tumba na iyong player namin pero wala pa rin pito kaya ganyan nagreact ang ating mga kabalen,” he said.
He said that they will accept the decision of the referee and the committee and will practice sportsmanship amid the controversial end of the almost two-month run of tournament.
“Tatanggapin naman namin kung ano ang resulta ng laro. Alam naman natin na kapag tournament, may mananalo at matatalo at saka final na iyan, tatanggapin nalang namin para maiwasan nalang natin itong ganitong mga nangyayari,” he said.
Guagua Mayor Dante Torres said that a game is just game and must not be taken seriously to the point that it will entail violence not only to players, but to supporters and the crowd as well.
He said that if they were on the other side, they will also wholeheartedly accept their defeat and simply move on.
“Sinabihan ko nalang itong mga players ko and supporters na huwag ng makisali. Mag-chill na lang sila at baka kapag nag-init sila, tuluyan magka-rumble dito,” he said.
Meanwhile, there was no reported serious injury in the incident as policemen and personnel of the Pampanga Public Safety Battalion were present to contain and calm the crowd.
In the end, Team Guagua was proclaimed the first ever champion of the NLEX Intertown Basketball Cup and Team Apalit as first runner-up. Team Lubao ended their journey as second runner-up after beating Team Minalin.
The NLEX Intertown Basketball Cup Committee also awarded the Mythical Five to Serrano and Renz Carlos of Team Apalit, Jasper Manalang of Team Guagua, Serapin Santos of Team Lubao, and Jiam Quiambao of Team Minalin.
Serrano was also proclaimed the most valuable player of the league.