ALASKA was seeing the game slowly slipping away from its grasp on Friday night until a commotion erupted in the third quarter involving Calvin Abueva, Ginebra coach Frankie Lim, Orlando Johnson and LA Tenorio.
Suddenly, the game changed.
Trailing by as much as 16 points in the first half, top-seeded Alaska suddenly went on a big run to wrest control of the game on the way to a 114-108 victory that knocked Ginebra out of the PBA Governors Cup title race.
Right in the middle of that turning point was Abueva, who admitted he was hurt in the commotion where he was head-butted by Johnson, shoved hard by Tenorio and later hit by Lim.
All four were slapped technical fouls for 'second motion' in the dust-up.
“Sa totoo lang, kinakabahan ako sa laro. Kasi Ginebra na naman ang kalaban eh. Kaso nung nangyari yung insidente na 'yun, mas ginanahan ako kasi nawala yung kaba ko,” Abueva told Spin.ph after the game.
“Parang ganyan yung sinasabi ko na mas ganado ako pag inaasar ako o nasasaktan ako,” he said.
Alaska assistant coach Louie Alas said his experience as coach of Letran going up against Abueva's San Sebastian taught him long ago that it's better not to mess with 'The Beast.'
“Sabi ko naman sa iyo before the game na pag sinaktan mo si Calvin, lalong gaganda laro nun,” said Alas. “Ganun si Calvin, once nasaktan mo, he’ll find ways to get back at you by beating you - in the game.
“Alam ko yan. Kasi nung nasa Letran ako at pag kalaban namin Baste, I always remind our boys to just play honest defense on Calvin. Si Calvin kasi pag sinaktan mo, parang Popeye na nakakain ng spinach.”
Alas said Abueva was a totally different man after the commotion, playing with more aggressiveness on the floor and rallying his teammates when on the bench.
“Nagulat nga kami kasi after 'nung incident, si Calvin pa mismo nangunguna sa pagsabi ng, ‘O, labing isa na lang 'yan. Kaya natin yan.’ Dun pa lang makikita mo na ang puso niyang lumaban,” he said.
Teammate Ping Exciminiano said Abueva is determination personified.
“Ganyan si Calvin, kahit sa practice namin. Pag go hard kami at naging pisikal, mas lalong ginaganahan. Mas gumaganda ang laro,” said Exciminiano.
“Nakikita ko kay Calvin ang never-say-die attitude. Ganun siya eh. Siya 'yun. Hindi siya basta-basta susuko. Masaya ako at kakampi ko siya,” said the Olongapo City-born dribbler.
Abueva acknowledged that he and Lim have a little history from their time in the NCAA when the Ginebra coach was still with San Beda, but the Aces star said it's all water under the bridge.
“Hindi naman ako (galit) kay coach Frankie, nirerespeto ko. Pero sa game, ganun tayo,” he said.