Climax set in All-Star Weekend
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - March 31, 2019 - 12:00am

It’ll be a battle of the PBA’s most revered players in the 30th anniversary of the All-Star Game at the Calasiao Sports Complex with a capacity crowd of 4,000 expected to pack the Pangasinan building tonight. The contest will mark the culmination of the All-Star Weekend that started with the PBA troupe descending on Calasiao last Thursday.

The players will be split 14 each for the North and South squads. Since the All-Star Game was institutionalized in 1989, the North-South format has been used in 12 editions. The first was in 1992. Before this year, the last North-South encounter was in 2016 when Alex Cabagnot took MVP honors in the North’s 154-151 win at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. A memorable North-South tussle was in 2008 when P. J. Simon was named MVP as the South pounded out a 163-158 overtime victory in Bacolod. Both Cabagnot and Simon will be back in action tonight with other former All-Star Game MVPs Gabe Norwood (2010), James Yap (2012), Arwind Santos (co-MVP in 2013), Terrence Romeo (2015, 2017 Visayas leg, 2018 Luzon leg), Troy Rosario (2017 Mindanao leg) and Baser Amer (2018 Mindanao leg).

The opposing coaches will make their All-Star Game debuts with Louie Alas of Phoenix calling the shots for the North and Caloy Garcia of Rain Or Shine at the South helm. Their coaching styles are a contrast as Alas is offense-minded while Garcia is defense-oriented. The lineups of both teams suit their preference. Of the North’s 14 players, 13 are averaging in double figure points in the current Philippine Cup compared to 11 for the South. The North is averaging 13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 6-2 in height and 32.2 years old. The South is norming 12.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 6-4 in height and 30.8 years. The youngest North player is Jason Perkins, 26 and the oldest is Mark Caguioa, 39. The youngest South player is Scottie Thompson, 25 and the oldest is Asi Taulava, 46.

Here are the lineups: North – 6-9 Japeth Aguilar, 32; 6-2 Calvin Abueva, 31; 5-9 L. A. Tenorio, 34; 6-0 Paul Lee, 30; 6-2 Marcio Lassiter, 31; 6-3 Perkins, 26; 6-1 Stanley Pringle, 32; 6-0 Cabagnot, 36; 6-4 Santos, 37; 6-5 Norwood, 34; 5-10 Jayson Castro, 32; 6-7 Rosario, 27; 6-1 Chris Banchero, 30 and 6-1 Caguioa, 39. Two legends are joining the North, 6-4 1/2 Benjie Paras, 50 and 5-9 Ronnie Magsanoc, 52. South – 6-3 Yap, 37; 6-10 June Mar Fajardo, 29; 7-0 Greg Slaughter, 30; 6-1 Thompson, 25; 5-10 Mark Barroca, 32; 6-2 R. R. Pogoy, 26; 6-1 Chris Ross, 34; 6-0 Amer, 26; 5-11 Romeo, 27; 5-11 Simon, 38; 5-9 Jio Jalalon, 26; 6-9 Taulava, 46; 6-8 Poy Erram, 29 and 6-4 Mac Belo, 26. Added to the South roster were legends 6-3 Alvin Patrimonio, 52, and 6-5 Jerry Codiñera, 52. Both Patrimonio and Codiñera were Purefoods’ direct hires in 1988 with Glenn Capacio and Jojo Lastimosa. Marc Pingris was chosen for the North and Joe DeVance for the South but both are injured and gave up their spots.

The North has seven players averaging at least three assists compared to the South’s four but the South has eight players averaging at least five rebounds compared to the North’s five. The North has the edge in playmaking and scoring while the South has the advantage in rebounding with size. The North is expected to run at every opportunity and not allow Fajardo or Slaughter or Taulava to establish defensive position, to set up shooters with pick-and-pops to decongest the interior and to make the extra pass in breaking down the South’s man-defense. On the other hand, the South will slow down the tempo and establish its half-court offense, rely on its backcourt to trap and pressure with Barroca, Ross and Jalalon and power inside with Fajardo, Slaughter, Taulava and Erram. It will be the North’s quickness against the South’s size.

In the North cast are three first overall draft picks (Aguilar, Pringle, Norwood) and five second overall draft picks (Abueva, Lee, Cabagnot, Santos, Rosario). The South lists two first overall draft picks (Fajardo, Slaughter) and one second overall draft pick (Yap). The South lineup includes three 2016 Gilas direct picks Pogoy, Belo and Jalalon. Simon is the lowest drafted player, chosen 43rd overall in the fifth round in 2001 when Willie Miller was the top pick. Erram is the second lowest, selected in the second round by TNT in 2013. Every North player was selected in the first round.

At halftime of the All-Star Game, there will be a 3x3 exhibition annotated by SBP 3x3 director Magsanoc. The PBA is promoting 3x3 with SBP as a possible way to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. One team will be composed of former San Beda teammates Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon with Cignal-Ateneo’s Mike Nieto and legend Patrimonio and the other will be made up of former Lyceum teammates C. J. Perez and Jesper Ayaay with Cignal-Ateneo’s Isaac Go and Matt Nieto and legend Codiñera. The traditional danceoff between the North and South will precede the All-Star Game.

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