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2024 all stars: A stalemate

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines — They promised a high-intensity, competitive PBA All Star Game.

Team Japeth and Team Mark more than delivered, fighting so hard that they wound up in a 140-140 stalemate after 48 minutes of end-to-end action.

While the two sides settled for a sharing of the spoils, it was the fans at the fully-packed University of St. La Salle Gym that really won this mid-season spectacle.

Team Japeth’s wide array of shooters put up a show from the get-go, with Jamie Malonzo and RR Pogoy knocking down bombs from the three-point and four-point lines to create an early 46-20 separation.

It was looking very much like a blowout, especially when Japeth Aguilar’s squad seized a 31-point lead in the initial skirmishes of the second.

But then CJ Perez started hitting his long-distance shots to get Team Mark to within a manageable 79-68 count at the break. Perez’ 28-point outburst in the second period was a new all-time PBA All Star record in scoring in a quarter, surpassing the 20 Arwind Santos netted in 2019 in Calasiao.

Perez provided the spark for the Mark Barroca-captained team’s searing fightbacks from Team Japeth’s repeated attempts to pull away.

Just when everyone thought the game was done for with Team Japeth up, 140-129, with 1:42 left, Robert Bolick suddenly came to life for Team Mark.

After a pair of free throws from Barroca pushed them to within nine, Bolick got them even closer on a booming four-pointer with still 34 seconds left.

A series of empty plays led to Bolick getting the chance to launch another four-pointer that he converted with a foul to boot from Calvin Oftana. The NLEX star calmly converted the charity to tie it all up.

Oftana missed his attempt at a game winner inside then Bolick tried to get it done with a Hail Mary that missed the mark at the buzzer.