DESPITE their early exit from the tournament, Air21 coach Franz Pumaren said he is proud of how his boys pushed Talk 'N Text during their PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
However, Pumaren couldn’t hide his disappointment over the officiating in the 100-105 loss that sent them to an early vacation.
One particular play he pointed out was when Ren-ren Ritualo was whistled for a foul against Jimmy Alapag - who was inexplicably awarded three freethrows - even with the TnT playmaker a long way away from the basket and in no position to make a shot near the end of the first half.
“That’s why I was telling them (referees) for us to be given a little respect. I’m not saying we were not being respected, but it shows eh,” said a dejected Pumaren.
“I told them, siguro naman you guys play basketball. Meron ba naman tumitira ng malayo? Eh dinig na dinig naman nila na mag fa-foul kami. And in those instances, you don’t give free throws. I’m not making excuses, but it was seen by a lot of fans,” he added.
Pumaren, though, has high hopes this bitter ending to their Philippine Cup campaign would make the Express tougher and far more competitive.
“Conference-wise, we were able to accomplish something to make it to quarterfinals. We’re just a few seconds away from forcing a deciding game. But I was also happy with the way we were able to fast-track the chemistry of the team,” said Pumaren.
Pumaren said immaturity was evident when they played the Tropang Texters, even though he was happy with how they kept the game close till the waning seconds when Ranidel de Ocampo buried the back-breaking three-point shot with the shotclock winding down.
The Air21 mentor believes the experience they gained in the quarterfinals gives his players the confidence they need heading into the Commissioner’s Cup which begins on February 8.