MANILA, April 13, 2004
By Abac Cordero - The Philippine Basketball Association will have to rely on the account of witnesses and even those involved for it to impose the proper fines or sanctions regarding the post-game melee that marred the game between sister teams San Miguel Beer and Coca-Cola last Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.

The incident took place at the hallway leading to the dugouts. The absence of security cameras in the area only makes it more difficult for the PBA to come up with a swift decision. Those who were involved in the melee will appear before commissioner Noli Eala tomorrow.

"We will look into it and we have to talk to those who witnessed the incident," said PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial who added that security cameras will be installed near the dugouts in time for Wednesday’s games at the Big Dome. Similar cameras will have to be installed at the Philsports Arena.

Coca-Cola won the Eastern Sunday encounter, 88-85, and in the process ended San Miguel’s unbeaten run in the Gran Matador Cup at eight games. As the players trooped to their respective dugouts, a commotion took place, leading to a lot of pushing, shouting and shoving — all in the absence of television cameras.

Newspaper reports said Coke import Mark Sanford and SMB’s Nic Belasco were in the middle of everything as they carried their physical matchup way beyond the final buzzer. During the game, the two players were already slapped technical fouls, and are now expected to face stiff fines for their misconduct.

As Sanford and Belasco were at it, more players and even team officials joined the fray with SMB import Art Long, also known for his short temper, banging Coca-Cola’s Bong Hawkins against the steel railing separating the two dugouts. Danny Ildefonso and Rudy Hatfield both acted as neutralizers.

Coca-Cola coach Chot Reyes said Belasco had apparently waited for Sanford to emerge from a TV interview then tried to pounce on the import.

"Pagdating namin sa dugout nandoon na si Belasco hinihintay si Sanford. Later on, nandoon na din si Long. Hagis si Hawkins dahil na body-slam ni Long. I saw Belasco, hinihabol niya ang import namin. Then the next thing I knew, there was a lot of shoving and shouting," said Reyes.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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