A referee turns his attention to the stands while the Boomers and Filipinos slug it out in front of him.
Joey Mendoza
Refs under fire for losing control
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - July 4, 2018 - 11:45am

MANILA, Philippines — While 13 players were ejected from the tumultuous Philippines-Australia game in the FIBA Asia/Pacific qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup at the Philippine Arena last Monday, no sanctions were meted out on the three referees who seemingly lost control of the contest that was called off with the Boomers up, 89-53, time down to 1:57 in the third quarter as Gilas was left with one eligible player on the floor.

A FIBA veteran referee, who watched the action in the stadium, explained that under the rules, a game will be put to an end before regulation only if one team is down to one player. A free-for-all erupted with 4:01 left in the third period and after a long review of different TV angles in ESPN5’s OB-Van, the referees returned to the court to announce the sanctions. The referees were provided heavy security when they went outdoors to the OB Van and back into the arena.

The three referees were Ahmed Al Bulushi of Oman, Hatim Alharbi of Saudi Arabia and Paul Skayem of Lebanon. The FIBA game commissioner or supervisor was Fadi Adnan As’Ad Sabbah of Jordan.

Ejected were nine players from Gilas and four from Australia, leaving only three eligibles for the Philippines and eight for the visitors to finish the game. Gabe Norwood, JuneMar Fajardo and Baser Amer were the only unsanctioned Gilas players. The game continued five-on-three for about two minutes until Norwood and Fajardo fouled out, leaving Amer alone on the court. With Gilas down to one man, the referees ruled a default.

A similar incident happened at the 2011 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan. Qatar’s lineup was decimated by the disqualification of ineligible players who were foreigners masquerading as locals. Qatar was left with five players. In games against Iran and Uzbekistan, Qatar went on an early fouling spree until the referees called off the contests with only one Qatari player remaining on the floor in the first quarter.

Last Monday’s encounter decided the No. 1 team in Group B as both Gilas and Australia reported for work with identical 4-1 records. Although the teams were assured of advancing to the next round of qualifications starting in September, the outcome was critical because of the carryover rule. “For such an important game, maybe referees from countries where basketball is widely played should’ve worked instead,” said an SBP official. “I’m not sure if the referees had the experience to handle tough situations.”

Gilas coach Chot Reyes didn’t justify the Philippine team’s participation in the riot but said the Australians were clearly out to bully and roughhouse the host squad. “I don’t know what they had in mind,” he said. “I just know they pushed us to cross the line.” Reyes said even during the pre-game warm-ups, the Australians made physical contact on the Gilas players who inadvertently ventured into their half of the court. During the game, the Boomers talked trash and imposed their physicality.   

Jayson Castro, known for his mild-mannered demeanor, said he couldn’t take the bullying and disrespect in front of his countrymen. Calvin Abueva said he was provoked and taunted by the Australian bench. Carl Bryan Cruz and Troy Rosario said it was clear the Australians were up to no good. 

Reyes said the referees could’ve done a better job.  “That fourth foul on JuneMar (in the second quarter) was unbelievable,” he said. “JuneMar was called for an offensive foul in the no-charge zone. Jayson was being held and caged. Terrence (Romeo) was banged up whenever they trapped.” Reyes said the Boomers were determined to win at all costs, coming off a one-point loss to Japan.

An SBP technical official said there were indications that something ugly would erupt as early as the first period. “The referees should’ve realized that unless they tightened up, all hell could break loose,” he said. Worse, when the brawl erupted, the referees stayed clear from the fisticuffs. Stadium marshals seemed powerless to stop the fighting which spilled into the stands.

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