Norman Black calls out Meralco import Alex Stepheson over lackluster play
Meralco import Alex Stepheson was held to nine points in the game against TNT. Jerome Ascano

MERALCO coach Norman Black called out Alex Stepheson for submitting a sub-par performance that factored heavily in the team’s 102-84 loss to TNT KaTropa in Game One of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal matchup on Monday night.

Coming in averaging 17 points and a tournament-leading 20.9 rebounds, the Bolts import could only contribute nine points on 11 attempts and 16 boards as the burly slotman looked like a pale shadow of himself.

His disappointing showing came even when the Texters didn’t even start his counterpart, Joshua Smith, who was nursing a flu, yet still provided a huge spark off the bench.

“They didn’t even start their import tonight, which doesn’t say much for their respect for my import,” Black said. 

“For me, as a former import, it would’ve been insulting for the other team not to start their import,” the former Mr. 100 Percent awardee added. “I mean, if you did that against me, I’m gonna get 50 on you.”

“So he needs to take it personal,” the Bolts coach continued. “The other team is gonna come out and say, ‘We can guard you with our local players,’ then I would take that to heart, I would take that personal. And I would try to combat it.”

[See Jayson Castro provides spark as TNT mauls Meralco]

Black said the 6-foot-10 Stepheson simply lacked the energy on both ends of the floor, while Smith still collected 19 points, three boards, three assists, one steal, and one block in just 18 minutes on the floor.

“We have to take advantage of those situations,” Black said. “He has to become more dominant, he has to become more productive for us to even have a chance. That would be number one. And hopefully, number two would be the locals will follow him and also pick their performance.”

“We’ll see how he handles it and how he reacts,” he added.. “Anyway, we only have one more game left if he doesn’t play well.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos