MPBL: For South squad in All-stars, thank God it’s Viernes
For most players, an All-Star game is an avenue to take a break from the competitiveness of the game. Nobody made sure, however, that Batangas-Tanduay’s Jeff Viernes got the memo.
“I have said it before. My mental focus every time I play, regardless if it’s an All-Star game or a regular one, is the same,” Viernes said. “I’m a very competitive player. I always do my best.”
Viernes’ approach to the game definitely showed when he snatched his South All-Stars squad from the jaws of defeat against the North All-Stars for a 126-122 victory in the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Cup All-Star game at Mall of Asia Arena late Thursday evening.
Down by six points with 3:15 remaining in regulation, the pint-sized guard from Isabela pumped in 12 of the South’s last 15 points—including two crucial free throws which sent the game to overtime.
Viernes then conspired with Gab Banal in an opening 10-0 barrage to give the South a comfortable 122-112 advantage with 3:19 ticks left.
The North still managed to make a game out of it as the quintet of Renato Ular, Michael Juico, Aris Dionisio and Jeric Teng joined hands to string 10 straight points to knot the count at 122-all.
But that only set the stage for more Viernes, who made four free throws in the last 25 seconds to seal the victory and the P500,000 team prize that went with it.
“I know we’re having fun because it is the All-Stars. But all of us have pride. Even if it’s just an All-Star game, we will always give our best and put on a show for the fans,” said Viernes, who also pocketed P50,000 as the game’s MVP.
“I think we were able to do two things—compete and give the fans a show. We’re very fortunate and we’re very thankful,” he added.
Viernes finished with 28 points, six assists and six rebounds for his second straight All-Star MVP trophy and credited his teammates for the victory.
“The back-to-back MVPs is just a bonus,” said the 29-year-old guard. “We really just wanted to win and we talked about that in the dugout. We also had great chemistry because a lot of us were on the team last year.”
And South head coach Don Dulay could not agree more as he witnessed the camaraderie first hand.
“One thing I noticed, we had a lot more fun on the bench. Everybody on the bench, the whole second half, were cheering who’s on the court,” Dulay said.