Mar 12, 2023

Lee four-pointers highlight Team Japeth All-Star Game triumph

CITY OF PASSI -- From being the three-point king to being the ruler of the four-point ball.

And going with it for Paul Lee was a first PBA All-Star Game MVP honors after leading Team Japeth to a 140-136 nail-biter over Team Scottie in the PBA mid season spectacle before a packed cheering crowd at the City of Passi Arena here Sunday.

Making the most from one of the All-Star Game novel innovations, Lee went 7-of-13 from the 27-foot distance to highlight a 32-point game that was easily the biggest toast in the return of the extravaganza from a three-year hiatus.

Jamie Malonzo and RR Pogoy scored 20 points apiece while Calvin Oftana and Chris Newsome tossed in 16 each for the winning team under coach Tim Cone.

Team skipper Japeth Aguilar sat out the game as he's still healing his injury, leaving Jio Jalalon, Arwind Santos, John Pinto, Jeremiah Gray, Gian Mamuyac, Raymond Almazan and Alex Cabagnot as the other conquerors of Scottie Thompson and his teammates.

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Cone's chargers set the pace most of the way before Team Scottie unleashed a key run in the third, setting the stage for a tight, exciting finish in what's easily one of the most competitive All-Star Games in league history.

Malonzo, Pogoy and Oftana came through with clutch hits in the homestretch, but the game still went down as a Paul Lee show that thrilled the Ilonggo crowd.

"Tumama," said Lee of his torrid four-point shooting.

Four-point ball from 27 feet and away, and a three-point dunk were introduced by the league in the Passi Sunday Game -- the league's first All-Star Game since the 2019 spectacle in Calasiao, Pangasinan.

Lee was a hit from the All-Star Skills Competition Friday where he ruled the Three-Point Shootout.

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And the Magnolia ace also brought his hot shooting in the All-Star Game, firing away five four-pointers as Team Japeth took the first half at 74-65.

But Christian Standhardinger, Robert Bolick and Arvin Tolentino rallied Team Scottie to grab the upperhand, 104-1001, in the third.

Team Japeth, however, hung tough and played tougher in the stretch with Lee, Malonzo and Oftana on the firing end.

It went down to a duel from the 27-foot range, with coach Yeng Guiao's troops eventually losing the match on missed four-point shots by Bolick and CJ Perez in the closing seconds.

Lee and his teammates made it a twinkill as they also beat Team Scottie in the dance-off, with the winners earning a cash prize of P150,000 as against the losers' P75,000. (SB)