CALAMBA, LAGUNA — Just to be clear, there is no bad blood between Nueva Ecija’s Juan Gomez de Liaño and Bacolod’s Chris Lalata.
The two young players met on Thursday night to clear the air following the controversial incident between them in the first leg of the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup inside the INSPIRE Sports Academy.
From the start, it was apparent Lalata felt bad about what happened. “Hindi ko intensyon na sasaktan ‘yung kalaban. Hindi ko intensyon na manggulang. Nag-sorry talaga ako sa kanya,” he said in the meeting also attended by league commissioner Eric Altamirano and technical head Hector Villanueva.
In the Leg 1 group stages, the Rice Vanguards and Master Sardines were going at it when Juan GDL’s right foot landed on Lalata’s right foot after a made layup with 5:15 left in the game.
The 20-year-old crumpled to the floor and had to be helped by league official Anton Altamirano back to the Nueva Ecija bench.
He was ultimately ruled out of the first leg, and will now sit out Leg 2 to heal his ankle sprain.
Juan GDL had no doubt that Lalata had no bad intentions, but couldn’t help but question why the incident had to happen. “I know Chris. He’s a nice guy. We were teammates in the D-League. I just want to understand why he needed to box out when the play already ended,” he said as the two played in Marinerong Pilipino.
For his part, Altamirano agreed that it looked like Lalata intruded on GDL’s landing spot. “Naiintindihan kong wala kang intention. Ang na-violate mo siguro is ‘yung landing spot ni Juan,” he said.
With that, the Chooks 3×3 commissioner told Lalata that this will be his final warning. If and when another incident does occur, there will be disciplinary action.
In the end, Lalata remained apologetic and promised to do better. “Juan, sorry sa nangyari. Alam mo naman idol din kita. Sorry,” he said before the two bumped fists in a sign of forgiveness.