Photo by Nuki Sabio/PBA Images
MANILA, Philippines - Joseph Yeo of the Air21 Express was apologetic to Chris Ross of the San Miguel Beermen Friday, April 25 after he hit Ross below the belt in the heat of their do-or-die quarterfinals showdown in the 2014 PLDT Home TVolution Commissioner's Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"To Chris Ross, sorry sa mga nangyari," Yeo said after the Express completed its upset of the second seed and twice-to-beat San Miguel to march into the semifinals.
"Yeah, it's kind of intentional pero nothing serious na gusto ko siyang masaktan talaga."
(To Chris Ross, sorry for what happened. Yeah, it's kind of intentional but it was nothing serious in that I wanted him to really get hurt.)
With 3:15 left in the first half, Yeo was called for a flagrant foul penalty 2 after a below the belt hit on Ross that was seen on the video replay. Yeo was automatically ejected from the contest but not before a slight scuffle occurred on the court with Sol Mercado also coming to the defense of his teammate.
"Gusto ko lang pa-feel sa kanya na we're not (a team na) binabangga bangga lang," Yeo explained his actions.
(I just want to make him feel that we're not a team to just be pushed around.)
Prior to the play, Ross and Yeo were already going at it, with the physicality and aggression mounting for both teams fighting to save their conference.
"Ako naman talaga with Chris Ross wala naman akong galit sa kanya or whatever," Yeo added. "I want to be aggressive lang from the very start. Even now if I see Chris Ross hindi naman ako galit sa kanya (or) kay Sol (Mercado). Kung galit sila sakin, well, I'm sorry."
(I have no anger or whatever for Chris Ross. I just want to be aggressive from the very start. Even now if I see Chris Ross I won't be mad at him or to Sol. If they are mad at me, well, I'm sorry.)
Before Yeo was thrown out, Air21 had full control of the game. But functioning without Yeo, who finished with 11 points and dished out two assists in 16 minutes of action, wasn't quite easy for the Express.
San Miguel kept Air21 at bay for most of the third and fourth periods before the 7th seed Air21 rallied in the final 3 minutes to force the first overtime and eventually win it after another extra 5 minutes.
"Siyempre very frustrated," Yeo shared how he felt being stuck inside the locker room while his teammates laid everything they had out on the floor.
"I know we had control of the ballgame before ako nalabas. Parang feeling ko kasi lumamang, parang fault ko kung natalo. The whole conference ako yung inaasahan ni coach to be there tapos nawala ako. Buti na lang nag-step up yung ibang teammates ko."
(Of course very frustrated. I know we had control of the ballgame before I was taken out. But I felt when they got the lead, it would have been my fault had we lost. The whole conference coach was counting on me to be there and then I couldn't do that. It's a good thing my teammates stepped up.)
As a former member of the San Miguel Beermen for 3 years from 2010 to 2013 before being traded to Air21 for Mark Isip, Yeo openly expressed he knows how San Miguel plays and how they are reacting to being threatened by an Air21 squad considered to be perennial underdogs and even non-contenders.
"I came from that team (San Miguel). Kaya sinabi ko sa coach ko nung tinalo namin sila ng first game, galing ako diyan, alam ko nangyayari sa kanila. Natataranta na mga yan. Ganoon yung team na yun. Kasi with their lineup, dapat hindi na sila natatalo compared to our lineup."
(I came from that team. I told my coach when we beat them in the first game that's where I came from and I know what's happening to them. They're rattled. That's the kind of team they are. It's because with their lineup, they shouldn't be losing compared our lineup.)
Indeed, the Beermen failed to live up to their potential once again. During the previous Philippine Cup, San Miguel (then Petron Blaze Boosters) finished the eliminations as third seed at 10-4. But they failed to reach the Finals after a lopsided 4-1 semifinal series loss to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
More painful was their sorry loss to the San Mig Coffee Mixers during the 2013 Governors' Cup where the Mixers defeated them in the Finals,
4-3, to clinch the championship.
"Tagal na yan," Yeo said when asked whether his former team's loss to an underdog is a wake-up call. "Andiyan pa ko dapat wake-up call na yan." (It's been a long time coming. It should already have been a wake-up call when I was still there.)
The 30-year old shooting guard turned point guard also described what the win means to his team that has developed a reputation of being easy to defeat.
"The biggest (thing) talaga sa akin dito is not about getting the money or the bonus. It's about getting the respect," Yeo said boldly.
"Ako kasi I came from that team, I came from other teams. Dati iniisip nila pag Air21 it's a win already. Yun ang gusto ko talaga, yung bigyan kami ng respect. That every time they play Air21, it's a different Air21 already. I think this quarterfinals na-earn namin yung respect na yun, beating this team."
(The biggest thing for me about this win is not about getting the money or the bonus, it's about getting the respect. I came from that team, I came from other teams. It used to be that everyone plays Air21 and they think it's a win already. What I really wanted was for us to be given respect. That every time they play Air21, it's a different Air21 already. I think this quarterfinals we earned that respect by beating this team.)
Definitely, nobody is underestimating the Air21 Express now as they await either the Alaska Aces or San Mig Coffee in the semifinals. And they vow to continue fighting the way they did and never allow the clock to strike 12 on their Cinderella run.
"Bakit kami titigil di ba? (Why should we stop?)," Yeo said. "We have nothing to lose but we have everything to gain." - Rappler.com