Another big night from Stepheson earns Meralco tie for lead
March 19, 2017
Alex Stepheson dished out an even better performance in his second game in the local pro league, and Meralco made it two in a row in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup with a 91-84 drubbing of NLEX at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday night. Stepheson followed up a 21-rebound, 11-point PBA debut with 18 markers and 20 boards, leading the Bolts to the seven-point win after a 94-86 victory over the Mahindra Floodbuster on Friday. As in their triumphant conference debut, the Meralco locals did their part with Jared Dillinger top scoring with 20 points and three others putting in double-digit outputs. Stepheson, Dillinger, Baser Amer and Reynel Hugnatan showed the way as the Bolts rallied from a 10-point deficit midway through the third then erected a 17-point spread before coasting to the victory. The Bolts handed the Road Warriors a second straight loss on the 58th birthday of coach Yeng Guiao, and coach Norman Black put a lot of credit on their defensive effort. “It’s a second straight game we held our opponents to less than 90 points. Our defense really stepped up especially in the second half,” said Black. “We’re a bit lax in the first half, then we played a lot better in the third and fourth periods,” added Black whose wards held the Road Warriors to 39 points in the second half. Stepheson and the Bolts pounced on Wayne Chism and the Road Warriors, 51-39, in the second half. “Stepheson moved around a lot better tonight. But he’s still got a lot of room for improvement. He scored a lot around the basket, and that helped us a big deal,” Black said. “As in the last game, our locals stepped up a lot. They did well a lot better than in the all-Filipino tourney. Overall, we put in a good team effort. We just have to continue to do that,” Black also said. From a 44-54 down, the Bolts turned the game around on an efficient defense and vicious attack they sustained all the way to the finish. The Bolts led by as many as 17 at 88-71 before simply going through the motion in the closing minute. The Road Warriors went down with the sorry loss after going 14-of-38 from the field in the second half. They hit at a decent 40-percent clip early on as they took the half at 45-40.