PUERTO PRINCESA, Palawan — Terrence Romeo scored 30 points and won Most Valuable Player honors as the North rallied to beat the South, 166-161, last night in the PBA All-Star Game that went on as scheduled despite the untimely passing of league official Ramil Cruz.
Cruz, the PBA’s technical director, passed away on the morning of the game due to a heart attack, putting a somber mood into the final day of the annual extravaganza.
A moment of silence was observed in honor of Cruz, before the league and its fans witnessed of the best games in All-Star history.
The 5-foot-10 Romeo, the sophomore guard of Globalport, carried the North back from a 135-125 third quarter deficit and scored a basket that put his team ahead for good, 139-137, in the fourth.
He also got ample support from Alaska’s Calvin Abueva, the game’s top scorer with 37 points, and Rain or Shine’s Paul Lee to win the MVP award and P30,000 from Nickel Asia Corporation.
His impressive All-Star debut came after scoring a record 50 points in Friday’s Rookies-Sophomores game.
Japeth Aguilar of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel contributed 25 points, most of which came from rim-rattling dunks that electrified the crowd, while San Miguel Beer’s Arwind Santos and Purefoods Star’s Marc Pingris added 24 and 19 points, respectively, for the North.
PJ Simon of Purefoods finished with 24 points for the South. Jeff Chan of Rain or Shine and Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter scored 22 markers apiece.
Despite the loss, the Southerners earned a consolation prize by winning the pregame dance-off despite the North players performing a half-naked dance through the famed song ‘Katawan’ of the 70s group Hagibis.
The recently-retired Jimmy Alapag bid goodbye in style as he scored 12 points for the South while dishing out 17 assists to break the old mark of 16 he set in 2006.
Alapag’s No. 3 jersey with Talk ‘N Text was also retired during an emotional halftime ceremony.
“It’s my dream to play here with the best players in the country. I’m just thankful that I was given an opportunity,” said Alapag, 37, who was accompanied by wife his LJ Moreno and their two children.
Also in the ceremony were his past and present teammates at Talk ‘N Text, PBA Commissioner Chito Salud and ex-TNT and Gilas mentor Chot Reyes.
Earlier, the league mourned the loss of Cruz, who was also a member of UP’s 1986 UAAP champion team.
“It is with a deep sense of loss and sadness that we inform the members of Philippine Basketball Community, our players and coaches and the fans that we have lost our Technical Director Ramil Cruz today,” the PBA said in a statement.
“He was found dead in his sleep at 6:30 a.m. Initial examination conducted by the medical rescue team indicate that Ramil suffered from a heart attack. We condole with Monette and his children, our thoughts and prayers go out to them.”
NORTH 166 – Abuva 37, Romeo 30, Aguilar 25, Santos 24, Pingris 19, Norwood 8, Tenorio 6, Belga 6, Castro 5, Lee 4, de Ocampo 2, Melton 0.
SOUTH 161 – Simon 24, Chan 22, Slaughter 22, Hugnatan 17, Devance 16, Baguio 14, Alapag 12, Taulava11, Yap 6, Barroca 6.
Quarters: 41-48; 81-88; 125-135; 166-161.