BULACAN, Philippines – July 2, 2018 will go down as a day many basketball fans would surely remember, though some may prefer to forget.
In an incident that many basketball fans attending the match at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue never saw coming, a brawl broke out between Gilas Pilipinas and Australia during the third quarter of their FIBA World Cup Qualifiers match.
With Gilas already trailing well behind, an unsportsmanlike foul by RR Pogoy on Chris Goulding sparked the melee, and the court erupted in total chaos.
After punches, kicks, and even water bottles and a chair were thrown, a total of thirteen players — four from Australia including Goulding and nine from Gilas including Pogoy, were sent to the showers after the match.
But the drama between the two sides can actually be traced back to the day before the game.
Let’s recall all the drama that happened before, during, and after what could be the most exciting basketball event for the two countries this year.
July 1, 2:45 p.m.
Australia was scheduled to have its pre-game training at the Philippine Arena on the set time.
However, as local reporters were about to interview the players, especially Milwaukee Bucks’ Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova, they noticed that the sticker decals at the free throw line and at the side of the court were removed.
As it turns out, the Australian team staff indeed stripped the decals, and it was caught on camera by the venue’s CCTV as confirmed by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) chairman emeritus Manny Pangilinan.
Aussie team ripping our/Fiba logos on the court of Phil Arena w/o asking permission. We will not back down. Those stickers go in. Regardless. pic.twitter.com/LMwyiBNtG4
— Manny V. Pangilinan (@iamMVP) July 1, 2018
Basketball Australia, through team representative Mark Bradtke, acknowledged the error and apologized the night after, just before tip-off, saying, “We never intended to be disrespectful or to challenge Philippine basketball.”
July 2, around 7:00 p.m.
More drama ensued “before tip-off”, while both teams were doing their warm-ups routines.
Daniel Kickert was seen shoving Matt Wright when they were doing their “rounds”, providing an early glimpse that the game may be a tense one.
The animosity began in warmups….
Posted by FOX Sports Basketball on Tuesday, July 3, 2018
But as it turned out, as seen in another video released by Fox Sports Australia, Calvin Abueva apparently tripped Kickert, and Kickert thought it was Wright who did it to him, leading to the pre-game commotion.
July 2, during the game
The commotion escalated further during the game, when Goulding hurled some nasty words to Gilas’ free throw takers.
This psyching-out did not escape the referees’ attention, and Goulding got the whistle for a technical foul during the second quarter.
July 2, 4:01 mark of the third quarter
Eventually, however, the early psychological warfare favored the Australians as the “Boomers” began pulling away from Gilas. At this point, Gilas was obviously not happy with some of the calls made by the referees, including the missed ones.
In the heat of the moment, Pogoy gave Goulding a little shove early in the third.
And then, that shove happened.
Displeased that an alleged foul committed by Goulding went unchecked, Pogoy gave him a hard shove that sent him down. Kickert did not appreciate it and retaliated with a shove, and all hell broke loose.
The entire Gilas bench was emptied in the brawl, while the Australian coaching staff was able to restrain its bench players from joining the melee.
After a long review of the commotion, Goulding, Kickert, Maker, and Nathan Sobey were sent off for Australia, while Pogoy, Abueva, Wright, Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, Troy Rosario, Japeth Aguilar, Andray Blatche, and Carl Cruz were ejected for Gilas.
The said development, however, left only Junemar Fajardo, Gabe Norwood, and Baser Amer as the remaining players for the Three Stars and a Sun, basically turning a match into a literal five-on-three.
July 2, 1:58 mark of the third quarter (around 9:30 p.m.)
Fajardo and Norwood, who were already in foul trouble then, used up their remaining fouls just swiftly end the game.
The referees then called it a night. Australia won, 89-53.
The media officer of SBP said that the players of both sides will be declining interviews, although some reporters were able to interview Wright, Coach Chot Reyes, and SBP vice chairman Robbie Puno.
The entire Australian team opted to take a different exit and begged off from giving their takes on the game.
Basketball Australia CEO Anthony Moore, however, issued a statement from Brisbane, saying, “Basketball Australia deeply regrets the incident in [Monday night’s] match between the Boomers and the Philippines in [Bocaue].”
The day after, it was SBP president Al Panlilio’s turn to say sorry to the hoop junkies, saying, “As hosts, we regret having breached the bounds of traditional Filipino hospitality. As the national team representing flag and country, we extend apologies to the Filipino people.”
FIBA, in a statement, said that it “will now open disciplinary proceedings against both teams. The decision(s) will be communicated in the coming days.”
Photo courtesy of Franchesca Nicole Collantes of Dugout Philippines