THE East squad turned serious down the stretch to turn back the West team, 104-97, in the maiden NCAA All-Star game on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan.
East coach Boyet Fernandez let his wards play their game in a fun, relaxed exhibition match for charity.
Still, that didn’t prevent his side composed of standouts from San Beda, Perpetual Help, Arellano, San Sebastian, and Jose Rizal University, to show enough desire to win.
“I’m really proud to coach them,” Fernandez said. “Hopefully in the future they will play for me in one team.”
Chiefs star Nard Pinto spearheaded the late charge, firing eight of his 10 points in the payoff period.
But the Chiefs’ playmaker insisted he didn’t take the match, intended for the benefit of the kids of Hospicio de San Jose, too seriously.
“Hindi ah,” Pinto said with a smile. “Tumatawa lang ako sa bench. Sabi ni coach i-enjoy lang namin.”
“Hindi ko nga alam bakit pumapasok (the shots),” the Davao native added with a laugh. “Timing lang.”
Mapua’s Jeson Cantos, much maligned on online forums for making the All-Star cut, showed why he deserved his spot, tallying a game-high 18 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting in 20 minutes for the West as the Cardinals forward stayed in the running for the MVP plum before his team lost.
While the East emerged victorious, it was the kids from the Manila-based orphanage that proved to be the real winners.
“We’re proud to be part of this cause,” Fernandez said.