LUCENA  NEXT  ALL-STAR  STOP?

MANILA, MAY 3, 2006 (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - It’ll be the North’s turn to host the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) All-Star Week next year and commissioner Noli Eala said the other day the top candidates are Lucena, Puerto Princesa and Baguio.

Northern and Southern cities alternate as hosts of the annual extravaganza with Cagayan de Oro rolling out the red carpet for the pro league last week. Laoag was the previous host.

Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno, a sports buff, left no stone unturned in making sure the PBA visitors enjoyed the trip from Tuesday (when the "Jam Ball" was launched) to Saturday (when the All-Star Game capped the five-day festivities). In exchange, the local folks were treated to an unforgettable event that was probably the most successful All-Star affair yet.

For the All-Star Game, the PBA’s media bureau chief Willie Marcial reported ticket sales of close to P1 Million–not bad, considering the Xavier University gym has a capacity of only 3,500. A source said 3,300 tickets were sold and only 200 were given away. The building was packed to the rafters and everybody–from the players to the fans–had a good time.

Moreno pointed to Eden Huang as the hometown point man who coordinated the event from start to finish. He called Huang the Peter Ueberroth of Cagayan de Oro, referring to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics’ chief organizer.

Huang’s brother Jack, by the way, played with Moreno on the Northern Mindanao Executives team that played a PBA selection–made up of league officials, sportswriters and broadcasters–in the curtain raiser of the All-Star bill last Saturday.

Jack, 52, is based in Cebu and became Moreno’s close friend when they worked as executives for Ayala Corp. He would’ve played for the Ateneo varsity except his father wanted him to concentrate on his studies. Jack said he never told his father of his escapades playing with Blue Eagle varsity players Marte Samson and Joy Cleofas in pick-up games at Loyola Heights during his dorm days.

Jack is a prominent stockbroker and a marketing whiz. He founded Hapee Toothpaste with Cecilio Pedro and turned it into a local success story.

Jack and his wife Mimi are parents of four boys, all six-footers and all basketball players. A few years ago, Jack and his sons played as a team to win a Cebu club tournament.

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The PBA selection was coached by Marcial and made up of Eala, Jacques Ruby, Beaujing Acot, Joy Lopez, Rey Balingit, NBA Asia’s Carlo Singson, sportswriters Nelson Beltran, Jun Navarro and Noli Cortez, sports photographer Eric Arazas and broadcasters Richard del Rosario, Paolo Trillo and Jason Webb.

The Executives were composed of Moreno, the Huang brothers, Gitagum Vice Mayor Emmanuel Mugot, Tagoloan Mayor Bambi Emano, Engineer Jam-Jam Jamolin, Iligan Mayor Lawrence Cruz, Board Members Ben Pancrudo, Oliver Actub, Jimmy Caina and Pepito Gambe, Impasug-ong Mayor Mario Okinlay, Board Member Ed Ayunting, Charles Cuaresma, lawyer Jonathan Pacuribot, Claveria Mayor Rocky Calingin, Lagonglong Mayor Clint Puertas barangay captain Gogoy Pupos, Misortel marketing manager Clint Gambe and former Far Eastern varsity player Ramonito Roa.

The contest was nip-and-tuck with 13 ties and nine lead changes. The PBA opened an eight-point cushion, 70-62, in the fourth period but the Executives roared back to wrest the lead, 82-80, with two minutes to go. Navarro completed a three-point play to knot the count, 86-all, with 1:19 left.

The PBA had a chance to win it with a final play in the dying seconds. But the Executives’ defense prevented the tiebreaker. Roa scored all his 10 points in the fourth period to spark the Executives’ late surge.

Webb finished with eight points, including two triples, and hurt all over after the contest. He said he hadn’t touched a ball or done any strenuous exercise since retiring from the pros two years ago. Del Rosario, another ex-pro, shot nine points. Both Webb and del Rosario left the game after three periods to shower and prepare for their chores in the All-Star telecast.

The revelation was Ruby, the PBA’s marketing manager who hit 12 points. Lopez topped all scorers with 16, including eight in the fourth period when he sucked it up to stave off the Executives’ furious rally.

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Jack said Moreno’s brand of "basketball diplomacy" is an example for all politicians to emulate. Through basketball, Moreno has been able to unify rival political factions and inspire active participation of the private and public sectors in developing Northern Mindanao as a center of economic progress.

Moreno, 54, was a two-time Congressman who played a key role for the government in the Joseph Estrada impeachment trial. He used his years of experience as a bank lawyer to trace the money trail that buttressed the government’s case. Moreno worked for Far East Bank, Bank of the Philippine Islands and Citibank then joined Ayala Corp. in a successful professional career before entering government service.

Moreno is known in the province as a visionary, a competent administrator, a man of the masses and an executive with a knack for getting things done. Legend has it that Moreno would ride a tricycle (called motorela in the city) or a taxi whenever he lent his car to an out-of-town visitor or a provincemate who needed a ride in an emergency.

Aside from Huang, Moreno relied on his provincial sports director Val Rosabal—a former commercial league standout in the MICAA era—to organize things for the All-Star Week.

Moreno participated in the Shooting Stars event, a new attraction in the skills competition the day before the All-Star Game. He combined with Lordy Tugade and Norman Black in a three-team joust where players had to convert baskets from six spots in the halfcourt within the shortest possible time. Tony de la Cruz, Mayor Emano and national coach Chot Reyes won the title.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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