MANILA, Philippines – Meralco import Alex Stepheson made light of the physical encounters that he had against NLEX players during their 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup game on Sunday.
Stepheson was involved in a minor scuffle with NLEX's Eric Camson in the fourth quarter of their game, which saw the burly Road Warriors forward claw the import across the face while they were both down on the court trying to gain control of the ball.
Stepheson tried to go after Camson but was stopped by teammates. Camson was called for a flagrant foul penalty 1, and Meralco went on to win 91-84. The import had 18 points and 24 rebounds in the victory.
"It's physical, but I like it though," Stepheson told reporters after the game. "I got hit with a slap to the face, I don't take it personal."
"I was upset at the moment, but that's basketball. It happens," he added. "I get hit, and sometimes I hit people. I dish it out so I can take. It's nothing personal, just physical ball. I like it."
Camson was not the only member of the NLEX squad to engage Stepheson. NLEX coach Yeng Guiao was heard shouting expletives at the Meralco import as the fourth quarter wore on, and while Stepheson claims not to have heard Guiao's curses, he fired back at the NLEX coach.
"I really didn't hear what he [coach Yeng] said, I just said what I had to say and walked away," he said.
"Basketball is an aggressive sport, a bunch of alpha males out there competing. People say stuff, things happen and it's over now so it's back to playing ball," he added.
Guiao, however, stressed that he was only coming to the defense of his players. He said that Stepheson had already hurt NLEX forward Bradwyn Guinto, who bore a black eye after the game. Stepheson was initially called for a flagrant foul, but it was cancelled.
"It's something that will happen in the heat of the game, but they never heard anything from Brad," Guiao said. "Hindi naman nag-reklamo si Brad, na-black-eye-an siya eh."
"Wala namang nangyari kay Stepheson eh, tapos siya yung naghahamon ng away, so wala naman 'yun," he added.
[Bradwyn did not complain even though he got a black eye. But Stepheson did not even get hurt, yet he is the one challenging us to a fight.]
Stepheson's night did not end with him leading Meralco to a second straight win in the conference.
A woman later identified as Guinto's girlfriend confronted Stepheson after the game, with the girl telling the import: "Hey you, you hurt my boyfriend!"
Stepheson, however, shrugged off the incident as well. "Who, me?" he said in response.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)