If any of De La Salle's players had the urge to strike back in an ill-tempered clash against San Sebastian on Wednesday night, they only had to look at teammate Mark Tallo to remind themselves to stay cool.
Barely two weeks earlier, Tallo had figured in an on-court scuffle with Andretti Stevens in a Filoil Flying V Hanes Preseason Cup game against Mapua and ended up sitting out the one match he coveted the most - a showdown with his former team Ateneo.
The Ateneo match had extra significance for the Cebuano guard, the son of former PBA guard Mark Anthony Tallo who had spent one year at the Katipunan campus before joining the Archers for this UAAP season.
His coach, Gee Abanilla, said several of the young Tallo's family and friends had made the trip from Cebu, precisely for the Ateneo match.
“He was dreaming of playing against Ateneo. When his chance came, he was suspended because of being immature,” said Abanilla. “Even 15 to 20 people from Cebu went to Manila just to watch Tallo in the Ateneo game. But all of that was wasted."
Worse, Abanilla added, the scuffle with Stevens was only started by trashtalking.
"That's part of psy-war," he said. "You have to know how to react."
If it was any consolation for Tallo, the fight and subsequent suspensions had become a cautionary tale for the rest of the Archers, who managed to keep their composure and stay away from trouble in a bruising quarterfinal duel against the Stags on Wednesday which De La Salle eventually won, 84-70.
In the end, it was San Sebastian star Calvin Abueva who lost his cool during the match. He was thrown out of the game for a second unsportsmanlike foul after a shot at Archers rookie Jeron Teng, and his departure proved the beginning of the end for the Stags.
“It was really a physical game and I liked the way we handled and conducted ourselves out there,” said Abanilla.
“Early in the season, kapag ganyan ka-physical, napipikon na ‘yan o magwawala na. But they kept their composure this time and just played basketball. They also played smart.”
The experience, Abanilla, should serve the Archers well when they begin their quest to regain a place among the UAAP's title contenders this season.
“Different kinds of play ang nararanasan namin [in the preseason] and with this win, I hope that we could learn something new,” he said.