, September 6, 2005 
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - This is a difficult column to write because it’s a commentary on the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) technical committee’s decision upholding the University of the East (UE) protest of its 86-83 overtime loss to La Salle in a seniors basketball game last Thursday.

It’s difficult because I respect the men behind the technical committee. Ricky Palou, a good friend, is the head of the committee and Joe Lipa, another good friend, is the UAAP commissioner. I know them to be gentlemen of the highest order.

It’s doubly difficult because as many of you know, La Salle is my alma mater. I finished elementary and high school at La Salle and also earned my undergraduate degree at Taft.

For what it’s worth, let me say that I tried to be as objective as possible in analyzing what happened and in drawing a conclusion if the technical committee’s verdict was fair or unfair.

From news reports, I read the committee’s explanation as to why it decided to uphold the protest and reverse the outcome of the game. The explanation touched on a FIBA (Federation Internationale de Basketball) rule stating that a team can only call a timeout after a basket and before a player takes possession of the ball for an inbound.

The incidence of dispute came with 1.8 seconds left in regulation and UE ahead, 74-72. Marcy Arellano had just scored to push the Warriors on top. Pandemonium broke out as a crowd of about 8,000 roared at the Ateneo gym. La Salle’s J. V. Casio then took the ball and rifled a pass to Joseph Yeo who missed a desperation shot.

Table officials, however, ruled a timeout had been called by Archers coach Franz Pumaren before Casio’s inbound. Because the noise from the crowd was deafening, nobody heard the buzzer confirming the timeout. To set things right, the timeout was given and the clock was reset to 1.8 seconds. When play was resumed, Tyrone Tang threw in for La Salle from the baseline and the ball was tipped by UE, creating another inbound situation, this time under the Archers basket. Lo and behold, La Salle’s Cholo Villanueva managed to elude the defense and scored the equalizer a foot away from the hoop to force overtime. La Salle wound up winning in extension, 86-83.

UE protested on the grounds that no timeout should’ve been allowed as Casio had already inbounded the ball with 1.8 ticks left in regulation.

Last Saturday, the UAAP technical committee met to rule on the protest at the Ateneo athletics office. Palou presided at the meeting. Lipa, who is not a member of the committee, attended as commissioner. The committee members who came were Fr. Ermito de Sagun of the University of Santo Tomas, Ric Matibag of Adamson, Ramoncito Campos of La Salle and Bren Perez of UE. The University of the Philippines representative was not around.

After nearly two hours of deliberations, the committee upheld the UE protest and awarded the game to the Warriors by a score of 74-72. The decision meant that as far as the committee was concerned, the game ended with Yeo’s missed desperation shot.

Philippine Basketball League (PBL) commissioner Chino Trinidad couldn’t believe the verdict.

"There was a failure of the technical committee to administer the game," said Trinidad. "I’m not from La Salle. But why penalize La Salle for doing nothing wrong?" This is a dangerous precedent because it alters the way a game could be decided in the future. You want a game to be decided on the court by the players not in the boardroom by non-players."

I agree with Trinidad.

Assuming a technical violation was made, why was the timeout given and the game allowed to continue until overtime?

If La Salle had no right to call a timeout, why did the table officials reset the clock and allow it? That only meant La Salle was not the culprit but the victim in this comedy of errors. And if it isn’t the culprit, why should it be penalized?

Assuming UE has grounds for a protest, the judicious and prudent decision–under the circumstances–would be to order a replay. To reverse the outcome as a penalty is clearly not commensurate to the "crime" or "violation" committed.

If the issue is whether or not Pumaren called a legitimate timeout before Casio inbounded, then the technical committee should summon the table officials to determine what really happened.

No doubt, the table officials will confirm Pumaren’s call because if not, they wouldn’t have reset the clock and allowed the timeout.

And if Pumaren was not in violation of any rule, why should La Salle be penalized so harshly? Is this the way the UAAP decides issues? What message will it send to the players who played their guts out in overtime to gain a win that is later taken away by some illogical decision?

Perhaps, no one is at fault. Can you blame the crowd for roaring and making it impossible for anyone to hear the buzzer confirming the timeout?’ Obviously, the referees can’t slap a technical foul on the crowd.

There are certain unforeseen conditions that sometimes come into play in the course of a game and the technical committee must learn to cope with the realities of a frenzied atmosphere. Whatever lapses it commits because of those conditions should not be taken against any team, player or coach.

The technical committee shouldn’t be too literal in deciding issues. It should consider more the spirit, rather than the letter, of the law.

I’m sure that deep down inside, UE coach Dindo Pumaren wouldn’t mind replaying the game if only to preserve the integrity of the game and prove something to his older brother. No team, no coach, no player would like to win this way.

Did UE deserve to win after La Salle came back from the grave to pull off a squeaker in overtime?’ Frankly, I doubt if even the technical committee will say yes.

I was told that La Salle will appeal the decision to the UAAP Board which has jurisdiction on a protest that is contested.

From the looks of things, a replay is in order

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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