Just play the gameBy Sev Sarmenta
Philippine Daily Inquirer
IN A messy game brightened up only by Kevin Alas’ 43-point performance, Letran and San Sebastian trash-talked, sneaked in punches and kicks and complained as if there was no video recording taking in every misbehavior.
It was the NCAA Final Four and Letran needed to stop San Sebastian, which had the twice-to-beat advantage. The Knights did their homework and clogged the lane, disallowing Calvin Abueva from doing his usual death-defying acrobatics or monster rebounds.
As expected, there was a lot of shoving and pushing. But what was glaring was players trying to sneak in punches or kicks as if there were no refs around.
To the credit of the referees, the game did not get out of hand. The proper technical fouls and ejections were meted out, and it should be interesting to find out who will be left to play in the rubber match today.
Letran was unstoppable with Alas leading the charge, winning, 92-74, and forging the showdown for the second finals ticket.
Defending champion San Beda entered the finals first with a 56-52 triumph against a resurgent Perpetual Help. Altas mentor Aric del Rosario, the grizzled veteran who gave UST four UAAP crowns during his watch, including one undefeated season (that eventually prompted the creation of the Final Four), has reconfirmed that retirement is just a state of mind.
He steered the Altas back into the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Perpetual just lacked the savvy and experience to close out a game where they had chances to send the Red Lions into another game.
Players should be reminded by both coaches and officials that regardless of the frustrations or disappointments the game may bring, unnecessary roughness and contact do not contribute to the mental toughness of a team or to its effort to win a game.
So fine, it’s basketball and contact is inevitable. But uncalled for roughness messes up the beauty of the game and could result in senseless injuries.
I do not subscribe to the belief that the NCAA is rougher and tougher than the UAAP, nor that machismo is inherent in Philippine basketball. The game is the same and throwing punches, kicks and elbows are never acceptable moves.
Contact is not the reason we watch basketball because the point of the game is to put the ball in the hole.
We want performances like Alas’ who nailed 10 rainbows and other unbelievable tough shots. We want athletic choreography—the charm of the give-and-go, the precision of the pick-and-roll or the subtleness of the backdoor cut.
We are thrilled by fastbreak basketball where turnovers are transformed into two-on-one or three-on-two scoring chances. We want to see athletes at the height of their youth going at full throttle without fear of being injured.
Just play, guys. Your showdown today or in the finals will be just as spectacular without any mindless roughness. Your 88-year-old league can live without you slyly trying to sneak a punch despite a thousand eyes focused on you and at least five TV cameras recording your every move.
Save your energy for loose balls and rebound battles. You don’t have to punch anyone if you don’t get the rebound each time or if there just happened to be an elbow on your neck when you tried to jump.
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