CHICAGO - Perhaps the most endearing quality about head coach Chito Victolero is that he is a straight shooter, one who does not sugar-coat things.
So when he thought his team got the wrong end of the referees' whistles in Magnolia's 81-75 Game 2 loss to the Meralco Bolts last Friday at the MOA Arena, he spoke his mind.
"There was a lot of bad calls," he told my SPIN.ph colleague Gerry Ramos of the repeated whistles that put the Hotshots out-of-sync and straight into quick foul trouble.
When it was all over, Magnolia was tagged with 32 fouls that sent Meralco, which tied the best-of-five semifinals at 1-1, to the free throw line 28 times while converting 24.
The Bolts, meanwhile, were whistled for 28 fouls that led to 19 free throw attempts and only 14 were converted by the Hotshots.
In Game 1 of the series, both teams were called for 24 fouls each and Magnolia held the advantage in free throw attempts, 19-13.
This is where coach Victolero's beef lies.
While crediting Meralco for playing hard and deserving the W, Chito insisted that "we have to do something about unequal officiating."
Just to be clear, there is no criminal mischief involved here. More like a series of harmless, misdemeanor bad and missed calls.
But Victolero ain't wrong.
THE REFEREES NEED TO BLOW THEIR INSTRUMENTS WITH MORE CONSISTENCY.
Why is it that in Game 1, the refs allowed the Hotshots to play in-your-face defense like it was the NBA in the 90s and then suddenly in Game 2, they won't let Victolero's boys even come close to breathing distance without getting whistled?
What's important heading into Game 3 is for the officiating crew to decide on how much turbulence in physical play will be tolerated before whistles are blown.
Once they make that determination, they must then notify both teams so that the coaches can adjust accordingly.
Seems easy, right?
Not exactly. Not in the PBA where everything is allegedly agenda and business-driven.
Anyway, by publicly airing out his grievances, coach Chito is engaging in what's termed as "gamesmanship," a ploy coaches use to court favorable whistles in the next battle.
The problem or danger with such activity is that it rankles the opposing team and its fans while creating an impression that they may not have necessarily won had Game 2 been officiated with an "equal" whistle.
I asked Meralco head coach Norman Black if he indeed harbored such feelings, but he politely declined to be dragged into a controversy involving men in zebra stripes.
Which means we will never know what's really up with coach Norman, who is so low-kay and stoic he wouldn't flinch if a bomb exploded right next to him.
"No need(to address the issue), Homer. We will just focus on the game tomorrow," the 11-time champion coach and grand slam skipper said.
OH, THAT'S RIGHT, THERE IS GAME 3 ON TAP TODAY.
And here we are talking about the officiating and taking some shine off a wonderful Governors' Cup conference that is enjoying the prosperity of a glorious, inevitable march to the finals by the Barangay Ginebra.
Hopefully, the refs will do the best job they are capable of and get the hell out of the way.
Can you make that happen, Kume Marcial.
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