Chasing their dream of winning the title three times in a row, the unbeaten Hi-Tech yesterday met with stiff challenge from the PEA in what was a rematch of their 2005 final.
Hi-Tech got off to a 16-14 lead in the first quarter and stretched it to 29-27. Their coach Manit Niyomyindee insisted on tactical offence. The team's awesome speed, excellent teamwork and sharp shots put them in a commanding 52-39 lead at the end of the third quarter.
PEA made a last-ditch effort and stormed back in the final quarter. Apaipong Netrsirisawan was in splendid form, scoring three-pointers at crucial times.
With just 13 seconds remaining, PEA fired a three-pointer to lead 69-68. A few seconds later, the referee awarded Hi-Tech two free throws, ruling that a PEA player had deliberately fouled his rival. Hi-Tech made the most of the free throws, much to the glee of their players.
The referee's controversial decision infuriated PEA players and their supporters, who yelled "Cheat, cheat" at the official and threw bottles onto the court. A PEA player kicked a bottle in frustration and a small child in the crowd was injured. A nurse was rushed in to check her condition.
Meanwhile, the officials ended the chaos by asking the PEA to hand in a written protest.
In today's final clash, Hi-Tech take on Bangkok Bank, who thrashed Thiew Pai Ngarm 70-64 in the other semi-finals yesterday.
In the women's category, 14-time champions Bangkok Bank A proved they are made of sterner stuff. They tamed their B side 85-50 and will take on Rattanabundit in the final. Rattanabundit yesterday outclassed Hi-Tech 77-62 in the other semi-finals.