(UPDATE) Just when everybody though the ‘Petronovela’ was starting to turn into a beautiful story, import Renaldo Balkman abruptly provided an unexpected twist Friday night.
A frustrated Balkman, who finished with a conference-low six points as he struggled all game long against the tough defense of Alaska counterpart Rob Dozier, vented his ire on teammate Arwind Santos, surprisingly choking the 6-foot-4 Pinoy forward in a shocking and bizarre sequence of events that overshadowed Alaska’s 83-73 victory in the PBA Commisioner's Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With the decision all but settled with 21.6 seconds left, the 6-foot-6 Balkman lashed at a game official for arguing a no-call in the previous play, then going ballistic on anyone who tried to calm him down.
Despite getting slapped with a technical foul for continuous complaining, Balkman refused to be restrained, pushing assistant coach Biboy Ravanes first before doing the same thing on teammate Ronald Tubid.
Eager to settle down Balkman, Santos then joined the fray but to no avail. The American-Puerto Rican forward pushed Santos thrice before the Angeles City, Pampanga native retaliated. Balkman then gripped Santos’ neck to the surprise of everyone as their teammates and coaches rushed to prevent the scene from spiraling out of control.
As the Aces wrapped up the win that enabled them to stay on top of the 10-team-field with a 6-1 mark, Petron coach Olsen Racela was seen holding onto the jersey of Balkman, obviously trying his very best to calm down his temperamental import.
Local Boosters, led by ageless center Dorian Pena, talked to Santos as they headed into their dug-out, possibly trying to calm him down. TV cameramen were also disallowed by the Boosters coaching staff from further getting a look inside the Petron dug-out.
AKTV courtside reporter Erika Padilla said on TV that behind the locked door she overheard Racela talking to his team about coming together and not going their separate ways, after which everyone in the locker room could be heard applauding.
Balkman reportedly emerged from Petron’s locker room looking sober, and supposedly apologized to his teammates for his stunning outburst. Not surprisingly, he has been summoned to appear at the Commissioner’s office on Monday.
Denok Miranda tallied 13 of his 17 points in the first half while backcourt buddy Alex Cabagnot collected all of his 16 markers in the second half but the Blaze Boosters still saw their five-game winning run come to a halt as they slipped to third with a 5-2 mark.
With both teams refusing to give an inch, the Boosters finally appeared to gain some sort of momentum courtesy of back-to-back buckets by Tubid and Cabagnot for a slim 70-69 lead.
But Hontiveros knocked in a triple then Casio scooped in a left-handed lay-up–both plays courtesy of Sonny Thoss’ dish–before Baguio, finding himself wide-open, swished through a left baseline jumper, putting Alaska on top 76-70 with 2:14 to go.
Cabagnot kept the Boosters’ hopes alive with a trey that cut their deficit to three but Baguio virtually put the result beyond doubt with another baseline jumper–this time at the right side–over the outstretched arms of Petron towering rookie June Mar Fajardo and defender Marcio Lassiter for a 78-73 cushion, time down to just 46.7 seconds.
After Tubid missed a three-point attempt, Casio turned a Cabagnot preemptive foul into two charities, stretching their gap seven points as Racela sued for time.
The youthful Petron coach probably drew up a play for Balkman, who failed to get a clear crack at the basket against the 6-foot-10 Dozier and another Alaska defender, forcing the NBA veteran to throw a wild shot.
That triggered Balkman’s outburst as he felt he was fouled, causing one of the most horrible scenes in league history.
A former New York Knick and a Denver Nugget, Balkman was far from his best as he struggled throughout, coming up with just six points on a poor 3-of-16 shooting from the field.
“Balkman was the reason why they got 5-0. It’s not every day you stop him but I’m proud how Rob Dozier matched up with him. I’m really proud of Rob. He really tried to be physical with him (Balkman),” stated Alaska coach Luigi Trillo.
Earlier, Rain or Shine notched its fifth straight win by compounding the woes of struggling GlobalPort 103-95.Charismatic rookie Chris Tiu tallied 10 of his 16 points in the payoff period, including a booming triple, while Gabe Norwood added 13, all but two coming in the stretch, to help the Elasto Painters fend off a late-charging Batang Pier crew.
More importantly, Rain or Shine seized solo second with a 5-1 mark while GlobalPort dropped its fourth straight and fifth overall in seven starts.
“We really got a scare in the second half,” related Rain or Shine head coach Yeng Guiao. “We kind of relaxed when we got the big lead. We’re also lucky that their import didn't make that much of a contribution, but their locals were really doing well.”
Scoring dynamo Gary David tallied a game-high 23 points while Sol Mercado 18 and eight assists but import Justin Williams, set to be replaced by former Detroit Piston Walter Sharpe, had a lackluster outing of six points and 10 rebounds while cooling his heels on the bench for most of the second.
After trailing majority of the way, GlobalPort finally tasted the lead at 89-88 off David’s fourth triple with 4:18 to go.
Rain or Shine, however, countered back with a decisive 8-3 charge capped by a Tiu trey for a 96-92 cushion going to the finals 62 seconds.
Seldom-used Will Antonio, making the most of his limited stint as he finished with 10 points, completed a three-point play that kept the Batang Pier within striking distance but Norwood’s version of a three-point play and Tiu’s two free throws sealed the deal for the E-Painters.
“We really had some difficulties with their zone (defense). They used it from the third quarter up to the fourth. Lucky for us we hit some three-point shots in time to save this game for us,” added Guiao.
RAIN OR SHINE (103) – Sundov 17, Tiu 16, Cruz 15, Norwood 13, Ibanes 9, Quinahan 7, Matias 6, Tang 6, Rodriguez 6, Lee 5, Belga 3, Arana 0.
GLOBALPORT (95) – David 23, Mercado 18, Miller 13, Salvador 11, Aguilar 10, Antonio 10, Williams 6, Lingganay 2, Yee 2, Belencion 0, Crisano 0.
Quarterscores: 23-17, 52-35, 73-69, 103-95
ALASKA (83) – Dozier 18, Thoss 14, Espinas 13, Baguio 10, Hontiveros 8, Abueva 7, Casio 5, Reyes 4, Dela Cruz 4, Jazul 0, Belasco 0.
PETRON (73) – Miranda 17, Cabagnot 16, Lassiter 12, Tubid 7, Balkman 6, Yeo 4, Santos 4, Washington 4, Fajardo 3, Lanete 0, Pena 0.
Quarterscores: 18-13, 38-38, 60-62, 83-73