The North selection finally prevailed over their South counterparts, winning 99-91 on late Saturday in the OKBet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Fifth Season All-Star Game at the Bataan People’s Center in Balanga City.
Dominant Justine Baltazar powered the North team with 20 points, 23 rebounds, and 6 assists to end the South’s three-edition reign and earn MVP honors. Baltazar, who is also the regular season MVP race pacesetter, received support from his Pampanga teammate Encho Serrano, who contributed 21 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter when the South briefly held the lead at 77-74. This came after trailing as much as 23-47 midway through the second quarter.
Roi Sumang of Nueva Ecija contributed 13 points, while San Juan’s Adrian Nocum, Rizal’s Jboy Gob, and Makati’s Rob Celiz chipped in 8 points each for North coach Pampanga Gov. Dennis Pineda.
The smaller South selection received 18 points and 7 rebounds from John Wilson of GenSan, 16 points and 8 rebounds from reigning MVP Jaycee Marcelino of Zamboanga, 14 points plus 7 rebounds from Bacoor’s Jhan Nermal, 9 from Imus high-flyer Poypoy Actub, and 8 from burly Joseph Gabayni of Zamboanga.
MPBL Founder and CEO Manny Pacquiao rewarded the North squad with P350,000, and the South selection received P150,000. The South squad had previously beaten the North 109-84, 126-122, and 109-92 in the first stagings of the All-Star Game.
Earlier, Pacquiao posted a triple-double of 33 points, 15 assists, and 11 rebounds as the South routed the North 114-63 in the Executives’ game of the event hosted by Camaya Coast through its president, Goody Ilagan.
San Juan chief gunner Orlan Wamar went perfect on the second rack en route to becoming the MPBL 3-Point king, dethroning Dom Matillano of Bacolod.
Pampanga’s CJ Gania upstaged Justine Guevarra of Bulacan and crowd-favorite Poypoy Actub of Imus in the Slam Dunk competition. MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes awarded the trophies to the winners.
The MPBL resumes its round-robin elimination round on Monday at the Paco Arena, with Bacolod battling Sarangani at 4 p.m., Laguna against Batangas at 6 p.m., and Oriental Mindoro against Imus at 8 p.m.