FOLLOWING his below-the-belt hit to San Miguel Beer’s Chris Ross, Joseph Yeo knew he just made a strong statement Air21 is not a pushover anymore.
The Express combo guard was ejected for hitting the Beerman guard late in the second quarter of the Express’ 101-95 double-overtime win over fancied San Miguel Beer in the decider of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal series Friday night.
Although he admitted his action -- which merited a flagrant foul 2 call -- was intentional, the outspoken cager insisted it was a way to send a message, which, true enough, was clearly conveyed as the Express pulled off one of the biggest upsets in PBA playoffs history.
“It was kind of intentional, but nothing serious na gusto ko siya masaktan,” Yeo said after the game. “Gusto ko lang ipa-feel sa kanya na hindi na kami `yung binabanga-banga lang.”
“Wala naman akong galit sa kanya (Ross),” added the former San Miguel stalwart. “They’re all my friends. If galit sila sa akin, well, I’m sorry.”
But since he was traded to Air21, Yeo has wanted to erase the notion the Express are the perennial whipping boys in the league.
“It’s not about the bonus, about the money here (at Air21), it’s about getting the respect,” he beamed. “And I think this quarterfinal series, na-earn namin yung respect na ‘yun.”
Yeo, who managed to score 11 points in 16 minutes before getting thrown out, was glad to have fellow locals Asi Taulava, Sean Anthony, and Mac Cardona fill in the void, apart from the usual production of import Wesley Witherspoon.
“Parang fault ko kung natalo eh,” he admitted. “Syempre the whole conference, ako inaasahan ni coach, so buti na lang nag-step up `yung teammates ko.”
And so the Express just toppled a star-studded San Miguel side that again underachieved this season.
“I think (San Miguel Beer) is the strongest team, for me, talent-wise, pero as a team, I don’t think they’re the best team in the PBA,” Yeo said.