Meralco, Rain or Shine dispute solo lead in clash of in-form teams with dominant imports
Shawn Taggart and Alex Stepheson have blended perfectly with their respective teams but only one will end up undefeated so far in the Commissioner's Cup in the clash of early leaders Rain or Shine and Meralco. Jerome Ascano

TWO teams that are blessed with imports who fit their respective systems gauge each other’s progress on Wednesday night as Meralco and Rain or Shine dispute the solo lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Bolts and the Elasto Painters, who share the top spot after going undefeated in their first three outings, respectively, face off at 7 p.m. after Alaska and Mahindra tangle in the opener of the doubleheader at 4:15 p.m.

The Bolts have already matched their win total last conference, and that’s mainly due to import Alex Stepheson, who has been controlling the boards, averaging 24 rebounds, along with 16.3 points, two blocks, and one steal in 38.8 minutes.

“They have an import that complements their players,” ROS coach Caloy Garcia said. “He’s strong, he’s been dominating the shaded area, so we just have to find ways how to limit his offensive boards.”

“Pag shooter ka, masarap magkaroon ng import na ganun eh; Alam mong taga-rebound talaga,” he added. “We have to find ways to minimize his boards on the offensive end.”

Baser Amer, Jared Dillinger, Chris Newsome, and Reynel Hugnatan have benefited from the presence of Stepheson as the attention the 6-foot-10 import has been getting gives the Bolts shooters plenty of room.

“Sa Meralco, locals are the first options. And that’s also what we’re trying to do,” Garcia continued. “We don’t try to really look for the import as the first option. We want everybody to be involved.”

After all, even with Shawn Taggart averaging 26 points, 10.7 boards, three assists, and two blocks in 38.7 minutes, the local crew led by Maverick Ahanmisi, Jericho Cruz, Jeff Chan, Beau Belga, Chris Tiu, Jay Washington, and James Yap have provided significant contributions.

“They really like to run, take quick shots,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “You really have to get back and defend the perimeter.


“It’s going to be another high-scoring team that we’re up against, so we’ll just…try to come up with ways to slow their plays a down a little bit to give ourselves a chance of winning,” he added.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos