It was mayhem waiting to happen.
The bench-emptying fray smoldering in the fringes of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals and threatening to spill over any time finally broke out in Game 4 last night, with three players ejected and an entire championship series tarnished by the apparent failure to put a lid on extreme physicality that has gone way, way out of control.
Talk ‘N Text leveled at 2-2 the best-of-7 title showdown with Rain or Shine, 99-92, last night as Ranidel de Ocampo, the big gun in the Tropang Texters victory in Game One, brought out the howitzer once more in denying the Elasto Painters a commanding advantage while restoring order within the beleaguered TNT camp.
Game 5 is tomorrow, 7 p.m., also at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Like a perfectly written script, De Ocampo, who had 24 points when TNT won the opener with the same final score, took over from Jayson Castro with the Texters’ back against the wall, unloading a career-matching 33 on 14 of 20 from the floor, including 11 straight points in the second quarter.
Castro, the Best Player of the Conference, took a while to warm up but eventually found his groove, adding 25 points, with 13 coming in the fourth quarter where he drained his fifth 3-point shot, action reached fever-pitch intensity and emotions boiled over.
Bedlam exploded with 9:47 left in the game and TNT ahead, 80-72.
A shoving match between ROS guard Jireh Ibanes and TNT rookie forward Matt Ganuelas-Rosser under the Texters basket carried over baseline railing and into the ringside fans, with Ibanes yanking at Ganuelas-Rosser’s jersey to keep his balance.
The situation turned ugly, however, after ROS forward JR Quinahan threw the ball at Ganuelas-Rosser, hitting him square in the face, and TNT import Ivan Johnson confronted Quinahan, drawing in coaches and players from both teams.
Ibanes, Quinahan and Ganuelas-Rosser were thrown out and the Texters went on to put the game away behind Castro, De Ocampo and Larry Fonacier.
Both coaches took turns lambasting the brewing anarchy.
“Never in my years as a coach had I been in a finals this rough,” said TNT coach Jong Uichico. “This is no longer intense. This is bordering almost in a brawl every single moment.”
Yeng Guiao, the ROS mentor, warned of an escalation in the physical exchanges as the series wears on if the situation isn’t put under control.
“Ganoon talaga ang mangyayari, puputok talaga, pag pinabayaan mag-escalate,” said Guiao, furious about the three quick fouls called on Best Import Wayne Chism in the first quarter and a fourth two minutes into the second period. “It’s an unfair two and a half quarters for us. Getting our import in foul trouble, that’s the only way they can win.”
Guiao also questioned the apparent tolerance the PBA has for Johnson.
“He went after Marc Pingris and Alex Compton, and them kami. Binabangga niya lahat ng player namin,” Guiao said. “Why ignore that? Why turn your head to these things? Ano ginagawa ng liga? Is this how we want to sell the games?”
Chris Tiu had a career high 21 points for ROS, with Paul Lee, backed after a delicate dental procedure to repair his broken teeth following a collision with Johnson in Game 3 added 17. Chism, however, was bogged down by early foul trouble and 2 of 10 from the field and finished with just 13.
TALK N’ TEXT 99 – De Ocampo 33, Castro 25, Johnson 19, Fonacier 10, Washington 4, Alas 4, Williams 2, Rosser 2, Carey 0, Aban 0.
RAIN OR SHINE 92 – Tiu 21, Lee 17, Chism 13, Almazan 13, Arana 8, Ibanes 6, Cruz Jervy 4, Uyloan 3, Norwood 3, Belga 2, Quinahan 2, Cruz Jericho 0.
Quarters: 17-16, 42-41, 74-66, 99-92