IT was only the preseason, but it didn't look like it judging from the way the game between the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards and Uling Roasters-Butuan City got way too physical in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President's Cup.
Tempers flared as the two teams, which were touted to be among the contenders in this first conference to be mounted in a bubble concept, figured in several highly physical skirmishes in their quarterfinal clash.
The intensity was high from the get-go.
Only eight seconds in, Butuan's JR Alabanza clipped Nueva Ecija's Gab Banal on his two-pointer, setting the tone for the highly intense duel.
Nueva Ecija's Juan Gomez de Liano was on a receiving end of a hard hit on the head from Karl Dehesa that led to the first unsportsmanlike foul, as well as a tackle from Franky Johnson.
The University of the Philippines standout also dole out hits of his own, with a wayward elbow on Johnson on one drive as well as a knee on a failed contest on an Alabanza undergoal stab.
Jai Reyes also got a piece of the action as he hipchecked Chico Lanete out of bounds on a handoff that merited him a technical foul.
In total, 26 fouls were called between the two sides - 17 on Butuan.
Nueva Ecija went on to take the 21-10 victory to advance to the semis, where it fell to eventual champion Family's Brand Sardines Zamboanga City, 21-14.
Emotions still ran high after the buzzer as Butuan turned their back and walked out on Nueva Ecija during the postgame handshake, although Spin.ph photographer Jerome Ascano did capture Alabanza and Reyes fistbumping afterwards.
Something, however, tells us that we havent seen the last of these two teams' intense rivalry inside the 'Calambubble.'