MACAU - Lance Stepheson put on a show and powered Liaoning Flying Leopards past TnT Katropa, 96-91, in the two teams' debut in the East Asia League Terrific 12 on Tuesday.
Stepheson, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers last season, poured in a team-high 31 points in the hard-earned win that put the former CBA champions on top of Group D.
The former NBA player shot 10-of-20 from the field and had eight assists while taking over late in the game to help the Leopards pull off the win.
His one handed slam off a transition and his fancy assist that led to an easy undergoal basket had the Leopards taking a 91-82 lead in the final four minutes.
The back-to-back basket forced the Katropa to call a timeout, giving Stepheson the leeway to play with the pro-Filipino crowd at the Tap Seac Multisport Pavilion, which kept jeering him the entire ballgame.
In the end, Stepheson only had good words for the Katropa despite him getting in a mini-squabble with David Semerad during the game.
“It was definitely a good game. The team we played was very good. They play hard, they're in attack mode the whole game,” he said.
But the Leopards were not all about Stepheson as fellow import Salah Mejri also did his thing with 22 points and 11 rebounds as he proved again to be a thorn on the Philippine side the way he did when Tunisia beat Gilas Pilipinas in the recent FIBA World Cup, 86-67.
Tianju He and Mingchen Cong each had 10 points to lead the local side for Liaoning, a two-time CBA champion.
The Katropa kept the game competitive for the most part despite trailing by as many as 10 late in the second period.
McKenzie More erupted for 41 points and shot 6-of-9 from three-point range, while KJ McDaniels added 32 in a losing cause for the Katropa, who at one time led the Leopards, 62-57 in the third period.
Jayson Castro only had two points for TnT, while Roger Pogoy with six on 2-of-11 shooting.
Troy Rosario and Don Trollano were with the team but were not fielded in by the coaching staff.
Liaoning (96) - Stephenson 31, Mejri 22, He 10, Cong 10, Liu 7, Gao 6, Li 5, Wang 5, Yu 0.
TnT Katropa (91) - Moore 41, McDaniels 32, Pogoy 6, Golla 6, Castro 2, Vosotros 2, Casino 2, Carey 0, De Leon 0, Magat 0, Semerad 0.
Quarterscores: 21-17; 51-47; 73-66; 96-91.