THE controversy that hounded the NCAA Finals the past few days notwithstanding, Commissioner Joe Lipa expects a very competitive game when defending champion San Beda and Letran go for all the marbles on Friday afternoon at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“I think with everything else settled, expect a good game tomorrow (Friday),” said Lipa on the eve of the deciding Game Three of a title series that has been wracked by issues over officiating.
Letran coach Louie Alas and referees’ supervisor Romy Guevarra had been at the center of the storm for about a week now following their unnecessary actions in the wake of the Knights’ 64-55 win in Game Two.
Feeling the Knights were getting the raw end of the calls, Alas made a `slit-throat’ gesture aimed at game officials in the midst of a big San Beda rally in the third quarter, an act that didn’t escape the vigilant eyes of Guevarra, who angrily charged at the Letran bench in the endgame and flashed a dirty finger at Alas.
The NCAA management committee later compelled both Alas and Guevarra to submit written apologies or else face the consequence of being suspended for Game Three.
Alas already submitted his on Tuesday, while Lipa said Guevarra gave his letter of apology to the ManCom on Wednesday.
That Lipa chose not to talk about the incident at the height of the controversy was understandable. Both Alas and Guevarra are people very close to him.
“Initially, I felt bad because these people are close to me. Louie played for me with Philips (in the Philippine Amateur Basketball League), but I think he got injured at the time,” recalled the former national coach. “On the other hand, Romy and I have been friends way back when I was still coaching and he was still an international referee.”
The NCAA commissioner admitted officiating in the league’s 88th season was not perfect, but that doesn't necessarily mean the referees are not doing a credible job.
“There may be some lapses, there may be wrong judgment at times, but overall, officiating has been very fair this season,” Lipa stressed.
The commissioner said he understands where Alas was coming from, but he’s not one to condone the action made by the longtime Letran coach.
“The mere fact that he made an apology meant that he was rectifying his wrongdoing,” said Lipa.
In the same way that he doesn’t condone what the veteran Guevarra did in the end of the game.
“I saw everything,” he said, adding he chose not to talk to the officiating supervisor about the matter shortly after.
“I just let him simmer down. I talked to him the morning after. I didn’t admonish him for his actions, but I just told him to be ready for any consequence.”
Still, Lipa vouched for Guevarra’s integrity.
“To me, Romy Guevarra is still the best technical official in the country,” said the NCAA commissioner.