By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno
MANILA – The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has suspended Allein Maliksi for his actions during Meralco’s game against Converge Friday night.
The league sanctioned Maliksi for apparently choking Barkley Eboña in response to the latter’s hard foul with 6.9 seconds left in the overtime thriller won by the Bolts.
Maliksi, who has emerged as Meralco’s secondary scoring option in recent games after KJ McDaniels, will serve his suspension on Sunday night when they face the Phoenix Fuel Masters.
Meralco will make one last march to a possible twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals while Phoenix looks to finally seal its place in the Final 8.
Apart from his one-game ban, PBA also ordered Maliksi to pay PHP75,000 as a fine.
The league did not spare Eboña, who was fined PHP5,000 for his flagrant foul penalty 1.
Deputy commissioner Eric Castro, who met both players on Saturday at the PBA office in Quezon City, warned Eboña that a repeat offense of his hard foul, which Maliksi claimed was a punch, would mean a bigger fine.
Converge will face Ginebra, also on Sunday, with the winner possibly sealing its Top 4 finish.
In a social media post, Maliksi apologized to Eboña for his actions.
“I apologize to the viewers, PBA fans, and the Converge team, especially to Barkley Eboña for the misbehavior that I showed yesterday during the heated moments of the game last night. None of my actions were excusable. This incident serves as a learning for me to be better,” Maliksi said.
It was a full 180-degree turn from his statement on Friday night when he accused Eboña of punching him.
“What’s the difference between you punching [someone] in the face and you holding his neck? F2 sa akin, F1 sa kanya (I was slapped with an F2, but he was only slapped with an F1),” Maliksi said.
“Nahilo talaga ako. Para akong sinapak. Kaya later on, napa-upo ako kasi nahihilo ako (I felt dizzy. I felt like I was punched hard, so later on, I sat down because I was dizzy).”
Eboña denied the claim, saying, “hindi ako naka-closed fist. Kumbaga, hard lang yung pagka-foul ko kasi pasalubong kami (I was not in a closed fist. The foul was hard because we’re approaching each other).”
Eboña reached out to Maliksi right after the game, but the latter accepted the reconciliatory gesture the day after.
‘We will never back down’
However, the FiberXers still took exception to Maliksi’s actions, claiming that Eboña suffered an injury during the choke.
“The Converge FiberXers denounce the assault on one of our players during the game against the Meralco Bolts yesterday… Medico-legal findings after the incident revealed that Eboña sustained ‘soft tissue injury secondary to mauling,'” Converge said in a statement, which concluded with “We will #NeverBackDown.”
In a separate statement, the Bolts acknowledged “that reacting to provocation does not reflect the culture we have built.”
However, they reiterated “no pressure was applied [when Allein placed his hand near the neck of Barkley] and Allein held himself back from further action until they were separated.” (PNA)