RAIN or Shine rookie center Raymond Almazan said he was caught by surprise and left groggy after Meralco Fil-Am forward Cliff Hodge hit him with a closed fist during a rebound battle in the dying seconds of the Elasto Painters’ 102-93 win on Wednesday night.
The 6-foot-7 Almazan actually had control of the basketball and the game already decided when the high-leaping Hodge jumped high and gave the former NCAA MVP a solid hit in the face.
“Masakit eh, medyo nahilo ako ng ilang seconds kasi closed fist eh saka namaga nga siya eh,” Almazan said, pointing to the left side of his face, which was flushed red when he came out of the Painters' dugout at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Almazan said the hit was uncalled for, considering that the outcome was already decided. But the rookie said he never thought of going after the Meralco forward.
“Hindi naman saka wala sa isip ko yung ganun eh (retaliate),” said the reed-thin Almazan, the No. 3 pick overall this season.
“Pero akala ko wala na eh. Closed fist talaga naramdaman ko kasi alam ko tapos na. Saka naisip ko, pagka-rebound ko idi-dribble ko na lang pababa eh. Nagulat na lang ako may ganung factor pa eh,” he added.
Shortly after the final buzzer sounded, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao approached Hodge and made it known that what he did to Almazan was not appreciated.
The highly-physical Game Two was marked by 30 fouls each for both teams, with bodies falling and elbows flying during stretches of the match - an ominous sign going to the winner-take-all match on Saturday.