Brawl could end in legal battle
THE coach of the Philippines basketball team involved in a sickening brawl with Australia overnight has extraordinarily accused Boomers star Daniel Kickert of attacking his players before the game even started - a claim the Australian camp vehemently rejects.
Speaking after the FIBA World Cup qualifier was brought to shame by disgusting scenes of players being punched, kicked and having chairs thrown at them - as even fans became involved in the violence - Chot Reyes launched a stinging attack on Kickert, placing the blame for the ugly affair squarely on his shoulders.
Reyes was apologetic about the situation getting out of hand but alleged Kickert hit several Filipino stars during the warm-up, which contributed to the flare-up that saw Kickert floor Roger Ray Pogoy after he fouled Boomers guard Chris Goulding.
"It's absolutely unacceptable but the reality is Kickert was hitting our players during the warm-ups," Reyes told reporters. "He hit Bryan Cruz, he hit Matthew Wright, he hit Pogoy and he hit Calvin Abueva during the warm-ups.
"The foul of Pogoy on Goulding was called a foul, an offensive foul. It was a basketball play but he (Kickert) was the one who came in and then he hit Pogoy for the fifth time.
"You can't expect to do that to a team five times and not expect to retaliate so that's what happened unfortunately.
"That triggered the entire brawl and as unfortunate as it is, like I said, it's something that you have to be there to know what really went down."
People from both countries were quick to condemn the horrific fight but Reyes defended his team, saying the critics weren't there to know what really went on with Kickert before the furore kicked off in the third quarter.
He said he had to tell his players before the game to calm down but when Kickert elbowed Pogoy, there was no way to restrain them any longer.
"They (the critics) don't know what happened, they don't really know what went on," Reyes said. "We need to face the consequences but like I said, the one thing they have to know about this team is we're not going to back down.
"We already restrained the players before the game.
"When Kickert did all of those things at the start and during the warm-ups we already told them … to focus on the game.
"After he did that in the third quarter it's hard to restrain them anymore."
But Basketball Australia CEO Anthony Moore flat out rejected that assertion when he addressed the media on Tuesday morning.
"We heard the Filipinos' comments in relation to incidents in the warm-up - we absolutely refute that," Moore said.
"It's a conversation we had with team management, that's something we absolutely don't believe occurred. That will come out in the tribunal process that FIBA undertakes."
Speaking on ABC News Breakfast earlier in the day, Moore said: "There was nothing prior to this incident that you could say, 'It started with a niggle here and a niggle there.' There was an incident and then it exploded from there."
Tensions boiled over when Goulding was fouled and then shoved to the floor with four minutes remaining in the third quarter courtesy of a forearm to the throat from Pogoy. Kickert reacted immediately, elbowing Pogoy in the face. That was the cue for all hell to break loose.
The Philippines team - including those sitting on the sideline - made a beeline for Kickert. The brawl quickly moved off the court as the players crashed through advertising boards next to the base of the hoop.
The Boomers tried to defend their teammates and NBA star Thon Maker launched a series of karate-like kicks at the men in blue.
Some of the most sickening scenes saw players being punched and kicked while they were lying helpless on the floor, while one Australian had a chair thrown at his head by someone who wasn't even a player.
The sickening scenes of Goulding lying on the floor while players, officials and coaches piled on has led to his agent Daniel Moldovan to consider legal action.
"I have to see what FIBA does. If FIBA's response isn't adequate, I'm going to pursue my own legal avenues to protect my client," Moldovan said on SEN Breakfast.
"Serious measures need to put in place before I comfortably send players to these environments again."
Nathan Sobey copped a sickening cheap shot from an official while being held back by a security guard. This came after being hit by Philippines player Andre Blatche.
His agent Marquis Taylor teed off on the carnage that ensued and said he'll work closely to ensure people are held accountable for their actions.
"That the guys were out there to fend for themselves was pretty disgraceful," Taylor told foxsports.com.au.
"We'll definitely work with FIBA, to figure it out. And also, with Basketball Australia, to see if there's anything we can do to reinforce the fact that the guys who went after Chris Goulding and Sobey, with chairs, and the officials more than anyone, that they're held accountable.
Moore also said the most disturbing part of it all was the fact fans became involved.
"It was hard to comprehend what was occurring and then to watch the replays and to see our players … being assaulted by fans is one of the more extraordinary things I've ever seen," he told Today on Tuesday.
"When you've got an issue or incident that spills outside the playing surface and you've got fans assaulting players, that's something that really concerns us and we'll be talking to our International Federation FIBA about that."
Kickert was one of four Australians - along with Maker, Nathan Sobey and Goulding - who were ejected from the match. Thirteen players in total were given their marching orders after officials took more than half-an-hour to decide whether the match should continue.
It did, but the three remaining Filipino players on the court intentionally fouled out and the Aussies won 89-53.
Former Boomers captain Shane Heal praised the Australians for staying on their bench and not rushing in to join the melee, but admitted Kickert would come under scrutiny for his actions.
"Overall the Australians, they stayed on the bench, they did the right thing. I think Daniel Kickert is in trouble though," Heal told 3AW Breakfast.
The bad blood between the two sides was evident earlier in the match when Reyes was talking to his team during a time-out when he was heard to say: "Hit somebody, put someone on their a***."
The madness didn't stop after the fight as several Filipino players took a selfie during the break in play while officials pondered whether to let the teams back on the court.
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