DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Sen. Manny Pacquiao thrilled the sizeable Filipino crowd but it was the Dubai All Stars-DJMC who had the last laugh, scoring a thrilling 99-96 overtime win over the MPBL Executives Friday night in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League’s Dubai Invasion 2019.
The 40-year-old Pacquiao, the only eight-division world champion in boxing history, showcased his basketball prowess, firing a game-high 35 points on an array of outside jumpers and daring drives much to the delight of his Kababayans who trooped their way to the sprawling Hamdan Sports Complex along the Emirates Road.
In the main game, former pro Mark Yee notched his 30th double-double while Billy Robles carried the cudgels as the Davao Occidental-Cocolife Tigers defeated the Batangas City-Tanduay Athletics, 67-57.
Robles finished with 17 points, while Yee wound up with 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Cocolife-backed Tigers, the MPBL Datu Cup South champion and losing national finalist to North division titlist San Juan Knights who jacked up their pacesetting win-loss record to 14-2 in the Lakan Cup.
The Athletics saw their own three-win run come to a halt and slid to 9-5. They have a chance to bounce back as they take on the struggling Imus-Khaleb Shawarma Bandera (3-11) on Saturday night at 8 p.m.
But the Dubai All Stars-DJMC, composed of former pro and collegiate Filipino cagers who are now based in UAE, had other plans as they played all out right from the opening tip to take the opener of the exhibition matches serving as fitting appetizers for regular MPBL matches.
Former MBA star Chris De Jesus led the hosts with 17 points while former University of the East standout Arnold Booker and Perpetual Help product Chris Elopre tallied 16 points apiece as they took turns in the extra five-minute period that salvaged what seemed to be a blown opportunity in regulation.
It was Pacquiao, as expected, who commanded much of the spotlight in the opening day of the league’s breakthrough foray overseas made possible by the Dubai Sports Council and Hamdan Sports Complex, with Happy Holidays, Herschel, Blue Eyes, King’s Medical Center, Shogun Global and Transform as support sponsors.
“It’s always a humbling experience to play infront of my Kababayans,” said Pacquiao, who personally offered $3,000 reward to the winning team. “We came here to entertain them more than anything and I hope we were able to do so. I’m very thankful for their warm welcome and to the government of Dubai for their great hospitality.”
For his part, Dunstan Rozario, Chairman of DJMC Events, the main organizer of the two-day hoopfest, said: “Earlier, I told my players to just enjoy this special moment of playing against Senator Manny Pacquiao. But when the opportunity presented itself, the guys gladly took it. This victory made the hosting sweeter for us.”