MANILA, Philippines – Throughout the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament, no team has been spared with what their fans saw as inconsistent officiating – or at worst – allegedly biased towards other teams.
Even from seasons past, coaches and players have continuously harped on the league’s referees for openly missed calls or razor-thin judgment whistles that have more often than not ruined fans’ appreciation for the high-level collegiate basketball happening in their midst.
Not even the introduction of the coaches’ challenge for Season 85 seemed to slow down these kinds of grievances, and Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin thrust the issue center stage following the Blue Eagles’ equalizing Game 2 finals win over UP last Wednesday, December 14.
One of the most vocal on- and off-court critics of game officiating in recent UAAP history, the multi-titled Olympian mentor hopes the referees will bring their A-game, at the very least, for the final game of the season.
“I’m not going to make any qualitative comment on this, but in games like these, refereeing becomes such a huge factor, and I know the referees want to give us a good game. I know both teams, both coaching staffs, they want consistent refereeing,” he said.
“It’s really tough on those guys, so I sympathize with them. They’re professionals, they have a job to do just as we do, but I don’t envy the pressure that they are under now. I think part of the reason is because of the way the league has been refereed all year long.”
“The players and the coaches and probably even the referees are still trying to figure out what is legal contact and what is illegal contact,” Baldwin added. “We’re all striving to understand what the consistency of that should be. It’s a huge challenge, and Game 3 is going to get even more physical. It’s going to get even tougher.”
In Game 1, Ange Kouame and Malick Diouf – the respective MVPs for Seasons 84 and 85 – both came one foul away from disqualification, while two other key members from both squads got three whistles.
In Game 2, it was Ateneo’s BJ Andrade and once again Diouf who got four fouls – which has put the latter’s minutes average at just around 17 in the season’s most crucial stage.
Although Diouf did not direct any blame towards anyone but himself after UP’s Game 2 loss, it was Baldwin who came to his defense in his litany for a cleaner and more consistent officiating field.
“I don’t think anybody wants to see Ange Kouame, Malick Diouf, Carl Tamayo, Kai Ballungay, Josh Lazaro – I could go on – BJ Andrade, sitting on the bench in Game 3 [of the] finals. You don’t want to see that,” he continued.
“But at the same time, it can’t be open warfare out on the court. So I sympathize, I don’t envy the position they’re in. It is really tough. And we’ll just have to see how that plays out. We hope and pray that everybody can bring their best in Game 3.”
With both sides hoping for a peaceful and decisive end to another exciting season, the Maroons now put their historic title bid on the line against a recovering Blue Eagle dynasty one last time at 6 pm on Monday, December 19, at the Araneta Coliseum. – Rappler.com