|Marc Barroca of the PBA All-Stars takes charge late to lead the Mindanao-select squad forge a draw with Gilas Pilipinas in the All-Star Week opener.|
By Patrick Sutare
MANILA--It was not the typical type of pace for a conventional All-Star game where players are expected to set aside intense competition and pile up points as much as they could while offering little to no defense at all to their opponents.
In the first leg of this year's PBA All-Star Week festivities, the select players from the island of Mindanao were able to push Gilas Pilipinas to their limits, engaging the national team to a respectable basketball slugfest which ended to an implausible draw, 114-114, Wednesday night at the Xavier University Gym in Cagayan de Oro City.
The match being a part of the preparations for the upcoming SEABA tournament, it is not surprising at all for Gilas Pilipinas' grit to be tested even in an All-Star game.
Coach Chito Victolero of the Star Hotshots, who was tapped to bark instructions from the sidelines for the Mindanao All-Stars, has obviously had his hands full in the exhibition affair.
Employing the type of system which has been doing wonders for the Hotshots, Victolero was able to press the right buttons as his team overhauled a deficit of as much as 12 and got back in time right at the waning moments of the game.
Both teams battled toe-to-toe for most of the way. The first 12 minutes ended at 24-all before the All-Stars slightly got the upperhand heading to the halftime break, 59-55.
Gilas then turned up the heat in the third period, outscoring the All-Stars by 11, 38-27, good to carry a seven-point advantage going to the payoff period, 93-86.
But the hometown boys summoned their grit right at the start of the deciding quarter as a 9-2 surge capped by a huge three-pointer from Scottie Thompson at the 10th minute mark of the final frame leveled the seemingly intensifying dispute at 95-all.
The Chot Reyes-mentored squad, however, immediately shrugged off the uprising and retaliated with their own 8-0 run to get back at the driver's seat with 5;59 remaining, 103-95.
A jumpshot at the 4:38 mark from Baser Amer would then pull the All-Stars back to the game with them trailing by just a deuce, 103-105.
The ensuing plays going to crunch time turned out to be a total shootout.
Gilas held a precarious one-point lead in the last two minutes of the game, 110-109, before leaning on their main guy Junemar Fajardo to carry the load in the clutch and bail them out.
But the national team found a thorn on their side in the identity of former Gilas guard Marc Barroca, who took matters on his own hands and traded crucial baskets with Fajardo down the stretch.
The 31-year old Zamboanga native scored the All-Stars' last five points capped by a booming long range bucket with just 49 seconds remaining to tie the game at 114.
They then put up a huge defensive gem on the ensuing play and had the opportunity the win the game with 16 ticks left; the final play, however, did not materialize as Thompson got denied twice in the lane as the buzzer sounded.
As per exhibition games rules, matches that end in a draw after four quarters need not to extend to determine a winner.
As a result, two players were named Most Valuable Players, namely: Troy Rosario from the PBA All-Stars and Matthew Wright from Gilas Pilipinas.
Rosario, who is also part of the national team pool, led all scorers with 28 points on an efficient 11-of-16 shooting while also grabbing four boards. Wright, meanwhile, accounted for 22 markers while making all but two of his ten shots, on top of three rebounds and four dimes in 24 minutes.
The next leg of the All-Star Week ships to Lucena on the 28th and will feature the skills events and the next assignment of the national team which will be against the Luzon-select All-Star team.
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