They say it isn’t a PBA finals series yet until a fight breaks out. If so, we can now officially declare that we now have a series in our hands.
In a wild finish to an otherwise one-sided affair and in front of a mammoth crowd of 18,696, Talk ‘N Text’s Pamboy Raymundo made a lasting impression during the few seconds he was on the court, elbowing Josh Urbiztondo on the neck and hitting Joe Devance on the nape after the B-Meg forward threw the ball in his face.
While the referees were reviewing the film, B-Meg coach Tim Cone, incensed by what happened, kept moving towards the TNT bench and motioning for Raymundo to come over.
The incident happened with only 1:47 left in the game and TNT comfortably ahead, 96-81. The Tropa would go on to win it, 100-85, to tie the best-of-seven series at two games apiece and set up a potentially explosive Game 5 on Wednesday.
When the dust had settled, Urbiztondo was slapped a technical foul for confronting Raymundo after that hard elbow, Raymundo was assessed a flagrant foul 1 for his hit on Devance, and Devance was given an automatic flagrant foul 2 for flipping the ball at Raymundo’s face. Both Raymundo and Devance were ejected.
Play resumed, but the drama didn’t end there. With 1:17 left, referee Arthur Herrera collided with Cone on the sideline, causing the B-Meg mentor to lose his balance and fall backwards to the floor. Cone refused all offers to help him get up, but with 58 seconds left, he finally stood up and marched off the floor and into the locker room.
The end-game dramatics overshadowed a dominating performance by the Texters, who controlled the game and led by double digits for most of the second half as they breached the century mark for the first time in the series.
“All our conversations yesterday in practice were centered around on playing TNT basketball for 48 minutes,” TNT coach Chot Reyes said. “To be very honest about it we were lucky to be down 1-2 [heading into Game 4]. It’s good we were able to come back and tie the series.”
After a tight first period, the Tropa held the Llamados to only 11 points in the second quarter as they turned a slim 25-24 lead into a 47-35 bubble heading into the halftime break. They stretched the lead to as high as 19 twice and weathered a comeback by the Llamados that cut the lead to just nine as they mocked B-Meg’s zone defense with crisp passing and timely outside shooting. On defense, the Tropa put the cuffs on PJ Simon, limiting the high-scoring guard to a series-low five points, and Denzel Bowles, who could only come up with 17 on the same day he was named Best Import.
Jared Dillinger finally made his presence felt with 18 points, leading five other Texters in double digits to underscore their balanced attack.
Things were chippy all game long, with Donell Harvey elbowing Marc Pingris late in the fourth, forcing the latter to leave the game for good. Reyes said it was all par for the course in a finals series.
“The physicality is a given in any kind of playoffs. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of things after what happened tonight. In the end the team who plays above and beyond the crowd [will win]. The refs, I’m not going to stress about it but I’m going to emphasize to the team that we gotta play good and quality basketball for 48 minutes. It’s unfortunate that an incident like that happened in the end game. It’s the finals, emotions are high and everybody’s on edge. It all depends on which team stays focused.”
Cone admitted his team was outplayed, but he was still angry at Raymundo and Herrera.
“Bottom line was they came out and played with a high level of desperation that we didn’t respond to the entire game. I must do a better job to prepare my guys.
“I’m upset that Raymundo got off so lightly for what he did. No excuse for Raymundo on his first possession to throw an elbow on somebody.”
On his walkout, Cone said he was upset that Herrera didn’t even apologize or help him get up.
“I got stepped on by the ref,” he explained. “I fell and lost my balance because he stepped on my foot. I was upset after I got knocked down. I walked out so that I won’t get myself into trouble, better get off the floor.”
TALK N' TEXT (100) - Dillinger 18, Fonacier 18, Castro 15, Harvey 14, Alapag 12, De Ocampo 10, Reyes 9, Carey 4, Raymundo 0, Gamalinda 0, Williams 0, Alvarez 0, Lao 0, Peek 0.
B-MEG (85) - Bowles 17, Devance 17, Urbiztondo 15, Yap 14, Intal 8, Simon 5, Pingris 4, Reavis 4, Barroca 1, Acuna 0, Gaco 0, Burtscher 0, Villanueva 0, De Ocampo 0.
Quarters: 25-24, 47-35, 73-60, 100-85