Jeff Viernes emerged the best among the best as the South All-Stars bested their North counterparts, 126-122, in overtime in the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Season All-Star Extravaganza that started Thursday and lasted early Friday at MOA Arena.
The crack guard of Batangas City Athletics knocked in 7 points, including the game’s last four, as the Southerners withstood a fiery rally by the Northerners to replicate their 109-84 victory in last year’s edition.
Viernes finished with 28 points, all in the last 25 minutes, plus 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals, and was adjudged MVP, worth P50,000, for the second straight year.
What started as a fun game, turned serious in the second half as both teams played with a lot of pride, partly motivated by the P500,000 dangled for the winner.
Held to a 112 tie after regulation, the Southerners clustered 10 points, with Gab Banal netting two triples, to pull away at 122-112, with 3 minutes and 17 seconds left and force North coach Randy Alcantara to call timeout.
The Northerners then countered with a similar 10-point outburst through Renato Ular, Aris Dionisio, Mike Juico and Jeric Teng, to knot the count anew, 122-122 with 41.2 seconds to go.
Just when the crowd, led by MPBL CEO Sen. Manny Pacquiao, thought the Southerners will give in to pressure, however, Viernes took over and drilled in four straight charities that sealed the outcome.
“I’m happy that the fans got a good game. In games like these, you want it to be thrilling. I enjoyed it, had fun and the entire bench also,” said South head coach Don Dulay, mentor of the Davao Occidental Tigers, who also steered South to victory last year.
Bataan’s Alvin Pasol backstopped Viernes with 19 points and nine boards while Cebu’s Will McAloney contributed 16 points and four boards.
Banal, Bacoor’s top gun, wound up with 11 points, four boards and seven assists, followed by Davao Occidental’s Mark Yee with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Michael Juico chalked 23 points, nine boards, and four assists for the North, followed by San Juan’s John Wilson with 18 points. Manila star Dionisio posted 14 points, six rebounds and four assists, Marikina’s Ular had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Pasig’s Teng 11 points.
Satisfied with the effort put up by the Northerners, Pampanga Giant Lanterns owner Cong. Dong Gonzales and Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards owner Bong Cuevas chipped in P250,000 each to match the South players’ bonanza.
“The (all-star) players showed that given the centerstage they would shine and deliver,” said MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes.o c
To cap the 10-hour event, Pacquiao raffled off a brand-new pickup and five motorcycles.
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