JEFF Viernes saved his best for last, especially with the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Lakan All-Star Game going to the wee hours of Friday.
With the two sides engaged in a nip-and-tuck battle, it was the veteran Batangas guard who took over for the South All-Stars late and played the role of the hero.
Viernes first forced overtime with his cold-blooded freebies with six seconds left that knotted the score at 112, before once again doing so in extra time, sinking the four marginal charities that secured the 126-122 victory over the North All-Stars.
Those gutsy baskets highlighted his 28-point performance as he also had six rebounds, six assists, and two steals as for the second straight year, he was hailed as the All-Star Game MVP.
"Sabi ko nga, mental focus ko every time na naglalaro ako, All-Star man yan o any game, tini-treat ko siya as the same," said the well-travelled 29-year-old scorer. "I'm a very competitive player. Ginagawa ko lang lahat, yung best ko. Yung back-to-back MVP, bonus na lang din yun."
As much as this was an exhibition game, Viernes says that it's inevitable that the players' pride and competitiveness are all bound to come out.
"Syempre nandoon pa rin yung we're having fun kasi All-Star pa rin yun. Pero syempre may sari-sarili kaming pride pa rin. Kahit sabihin mong All-Star, gusto naming ibigay namin ang best namin at bigyan ng magandang show yung fans," he said.
"I think nagawa naman namin both, nag-enjoy kami at nabigyan namin yung fans ng sobrang gandang laban."
Even Davao Occidental mentor and South All-Stars coach Don Dulay couldn't help but be in awe of Viernes.
"Every play he made in the fourth quarter and in the overtime, me and my coaches we're just amazed," he admitted.
Viernes has been such a headache for opposing teams that for a change, Dulay is glad that he's on the same side.
"We already know how he plays in these kinds of games, but I get to finally enjoy it because we're in the same team," he said. "When we play against each other, we'll try to stop him. But it was fun. I enjoyed watching him."