MONBERT Arong, the player at the center of the tune-up scrap between Far Eastern University and La Salle, said he and his Tamaraws teammates merely tried to defend their coach's honor after he was 'disrespected' by the Tamaraws.
Speaking two days after the ill-tempered match that was called off in the third quarter, Arong claimed that apart from nearly getting hit by several errant passes from La Salle players, Racela was also told to “shut up” by Green Archers forward Ben Mbala.
“Sa first period pa lang, physical na masyado ang laro. We weren’t getting much foul calls, probably because they were the ones who brought the officials. And both teams agreed that nobody would foul out kasi nga raw tune-up game lang naman,” narrated Arong on Thursday's game at The Arena in San Juan.
“Si Ben (Mbala), nagagalit siya kasi we would always foul him to stop him from getting easy baskets. So one time, he went to coach Nash (Racela) and told him to tell his players to stop fouling. Si coach naman said na, ‘Laro lang.’ That’s when he told our coach to shut up,” added the peppery Cebuano guard.
Incidentally, Arong and Mbala won a Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) championship together back in 2012 with the Southwestern University Cobras.
Arong, however, said the Tamaraws couldn't take the insult sitting down.
“Eh head coach namin 'yan. Nasaktan kami lahat na ginanun yung head coach namin kaya gusto namin siya ipaglaban!” said Arong, the hurt and vigor palpable in his voice.
Arong had been accused by La Salle head coach Aldin Ayo of hitting Archers forward Jeron Teng during the game, something the latter did not even bother to deny.
But Arong insisted he merely retaliated after being hit by Teng during the play.
“Dinedepensahan ko si (Andrei) Caracut nung play na 'yun. Eh kasi nga shooter, I was trying to navigate my way through the screens and si (Jeron) Teng, tinira nya ako sa down pick niya. Kaya I retaliated na rin.”
“Pagkatapos nun, lumapit na siya sa akin at may ibang teammates na rin niya na pumunta sa akin, kaya I took a fighting stance na to defend myself. Marami sila, ako lang mag-isa at that time,” said the left-handed Cebuano.
Mbala sang a different tune on Twitter, decrying what he claimed were 'dirty tactics' that the Tamaraws employed against him.
“I don’t mind being kneed, punched, elbowed or slapped. They wouldn’t do that if I wasn’t a threat,” Mbala tweeted.
However, the Cameroonian said that FEU’s strategy crossed the line between “physical and dirty.”
“I shot 15 free throws in less than three quarters. People (need to) understand there is a difference between physical and dirty,” Mbala added.