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Phoenix Fuel Masters assistant coach Nic Belasco and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters import Shawn Taggart face severe punishments for a scuffle that marred the end of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup game last Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The two were having a heated verbal exchange after Rain or Shine’s 96-94 comeback victory over Phoenix when Belasco shoved Taggart in the chin, prompting the latter’s teammate Gabe Norwood to separate the former PBA player.
Taggart responded by slapping Belasco even as players and coaches of both teams acted as peacemakers. PBA Commissioner Chito Narvasa was even seen pacifying Belasco while being surrounded by Rain or Shine’s Jay Washington, Phoenix official Raymond Zorilla and PBA Media Bureau Chief Willie Marcial.
Narvasa later summoned Belasco at his office with sanctions expected to be made after the Holy Week break.
Taggart refrained to comment on the incident as he was escorted out of the Big Dome by security. Belasco, on the other hand, took responsibility for his actions.
“It was a really competitive basketball game so there’s a lot of competition, tempers flaring, and you know, it’s a man’s game,” Belasco said. “Rain or Shine outplayed us and things happened. It’s unfortunate. I apologize for being part of that.
“I don’t want to do anything bad to hurt the league or Phoenix or Rain or Shine. That’s the only thing I really regret about – shedding bad light on the PBA,” he added.
Asked what triggered the near fist-fight, Belasco said “I’m not going to put blame on anybody. They came back and won a really competitive game. We were up by 17, so everything that happened after the game, it’s on video. Everyone can make their own opinions about it, but I’m not going to blame anyone.”
Phoenix was indeed in a bad mood after blowing an apparent victory in the final minutes. The Fuel Masters led 71-54 in the third and were even up by double figures in the latter stages of the fourth when the Elasto Painters made their stunning rally.
Outside shots by Washington and James Yap put Rain or Shine within shouting distance before Jeff Chan came through with a three-point play off a foul by Jameel McKay with 7.7 seconds left for a 95-94 lead.
Phoenix’s JC Intal lost the ball on the next play, resulting in Chan to make one-of-two free throws for the final count. The win not only allowed the Elasto Painters to snap a two-game skid to go 4-2 on the conference, but also a chance to rest for the rest of Lenten break with their next game still scheduled on April 22 against the Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beermen.
“Naiisip ko na nga yung practice namin sa Holy Week e, pero lahat naman positive yung sinasabi e lalo na nung bumaba sa less than 10, so yun lang naging positive lang ang lahat,” Chan said.
Phoenix dropped to 2-4 after suffering its most heartbreaking defeat this season, the meltdown compounding what has been a campaign filled with lopsided losses.
“They know how to win in those situations and weren’t able to protect our lead and there were a lot of crucial turnovers that we had in the endgame that cost us the game,” said Fuel Masters coach Ariel Vanguardia.