MANILA - NLEX guard Paul Varilla said he was only trying to stand up for himself during a scuffle with NorthPort import Michael Qualls in the fourth quarter of their PBA Governors' Cup quarterfinal game on Monday night.
The Road Warriors were trying to mount a rally, and were down by 14 points, 95-81, with over five minutes left when Varilla stepped in front of Qualls who was charging to the hoop.
Varilla was whistled for a blocking foul as he fell to the floor, and Qualls was seen stepping on him as he tried to break his fall. The situation fell apart from there as NLEX center Poy Erram struck Qualls with an elbow, before game officials and coaches pulled them apart.
Varilla and Erram were tossed from the game after being given flagrant fouls; NorthPort went on to win, 115-90, to force a deciding game for a spot in the semifinals.
"He (Qualls) started it first on the court," said Varilla, who had 3 points in a losing effort. "I was trying to get an offensive rebound, then I became physical with him."
"And then, he was calling me names," he added. "So, I wanted to make a stand, this is the playoffs, so I'm not gonna back down to him."
Varilla said he was trying to draw a charge during the pivotal incident, and felt the NorthPort import aggravated the issue by stepping on him.
"When I fell he stepped on me on purpose because we're going back at it from earlier on. So I thought he had stepped on me intentionally," he said.
"So in return, I did what I did," he added.
Varilla, however, denied that he deliberately pushed NorthPort's Christian Standhardinger, who also crashed to the court amidst the fracas.
"I don't think I touched Christian there. If anything he flopped like he usually does," he said.
Erram, who had 6 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks before his ejection, declined to talk to reporters. PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial is expected to announce their sanctions tomorrow.
Varilla is hopeful that they will escape suspension, with the Road Warriors and the Batang Pier set to play a do-or-die game on Wednesday.
"I hope not," said Varilla. "We just have to wait and find out."