MANILA, Philippines – NorthPort import Michael Qualls claimed he heard a racist remark from an NLEX player in their PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinals match that was marred by a momentary fight.
Things got chippy midway through the final quarter as Qualls was elbowed in the head by Poy Erram and Paul Varilla, who were eventually ejected after being both slapped a flagrant foul penalty 2.
“One of them players called me the ‘N’ word and I didn’t like that. Just a couple of racist comments. It really doesn’t affect me because I love everybody so it’s cool,” Qualls told reporters after the game.
Qualls, however, was not able to determine the player.
“I really don’t know names like that,” he said. “I don’t know somebody. It’s cool. It happens. I won’t let nobody get under my skin.”
But what sparked the scuffle was Qualls stepping on Varilla’s abdomen after he got outbalanced during a shot attempt.
Seeing his teammate hurt, Erram stepped in and elbowed Qualls in the back of the head before Christian Standhardinger – who was among the players who tried to diffuse the situation – was also hit by Varilla.
Qualls, though, clarified the misstep was unintentional.
“I just be trying to get to the basket. He fell then I didn’t want to hurt my legs so I didn’t have anywhere else to step. Before I knew, when I was getting up, that’s when I was getting swung on. It is what it is.”
Despite taking several hits, Qualls got the last laugh as the No. 8 Batang Pier erased the No. 1 Road Warriors’ twice-to-beat bonus with a dominant 115-90 win and forced a do-or-die match for the semifinals spot.
Qualls was practically unstoppable, putting up 39 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals in what was arguably his finest game for the team.
“We have a hundred percent belief in our team that we can beat anyone. We just want to come out and play hard every night.”
“I just want to stay aggressive, exploit mismatches. If they put somebody smaller on me, I want to attack them. If they have somebody big on me, I just want to blow past them,” Qualls added.
Potential suspensions await Erram and Varilla for Game 2 on Wednesday, November 27, but Qualls does not seem to care.
“It’s cool. They can be there if they want to. It really doesn’t matter.” – Rappler.com