In a game that had it all: delays, drama, fights, highlights, physicality, et al, a last second find by Nestor Bantayan led to a buzzer beating layup by Bright Akhuetie to lead the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas in an epic 88-86 win over the San Beda Red Lions early Thursday evening at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.
After an early 16-6 lead by the defending champions, the cagers from Las Piñas were able to come crawling back with consecutive three-pointers by John Ylagan. Free throws by ace Point Guard Scottie Thompson ended the quarter with Perpetual down by just three, 14-17.
Javee Mocon powered the defending champions in the second quarter. Mocon, who surprisingly started the game, was all over the court in the first half in crashing the boards and being aggressive on offense. Mocon had 12 points in the first half and added seven boards. Despite his production, the Altas were able to gain the lead in the second stanza behind the efforts of the 18-year-old Akhuetie. In addition to Akhuetie, Thompson managed to convert on a three-point play with 52.2 remaining while a find by Ylagan to Nikolo Cabiltes with two ticks to go gave Perpetual a 39-35 lead to enter halftime.
The Aric del Rosario-mentored squad came out like a house on fire to open the third period. Akhuetie showed a new facet in his game during the quarter in creating for his teammates. The main benefactor of his playmaking was Flash Sadiwa. Sadiwa was able to score eight points in the quarter, mostly through layups, that helped give Perpetual their biggest lead in the game, 53-39 with 6:37 to go. Ola Adeogun, with his team down, fired up the Red Lions by being the workhorse on both ends of the court. After a technical was called on Adeogun, he was able to score eight of the last 14 points of the Red Lions that cut the lead to just a solitary point 61-60 to enter the final frame.
As the game heated up, so to was the emotions of the players in the court. Right in the opening possession of the final stanza, pro-bound Michole Solera and Kevin Oliveria were caught in a heated box out. A frustrated Solera punched the back of Oliveria that resulted to his disqualification while the latter was assessed with an unsportsmanlike foul. The two teams then exchanged leads until the 4:22 mark of the quarter. With San Beda leading 74-73, Thompson was able to find his big man Akhuetie in the paint who soared high in the air for a massive facial on Adeogun that gave his team the lead. Free throws by Thompson and a layup by Nestor Bantayan extended the lead to five with 3:18 to go.
Dela Cruz then took control of the game as he connected on a three pointer and a huge fast break layup to regain the lead. After another slam by Akhuetie that tied the game once more, Thompson was able to weave his way against three defenders to give his team the lead, 83-81, with 56.4 ticks to go. At the ensuing play, a mad scramble off a miss resulted to a three pointer by the returning Baser Amer. Bantayan then was able to regain the lead from a dish by Thompson. With 25.2 seconds to go, Thompson was able to extend the lead after splitting free throws. Dela Cruz did not waste anytime whatsoever in driving hard into the lane for a huge layup to tie the game at 86-all with 14.6 seconds to go. With no timeouts remaining, Thompson calmly drove into the lane and passed the ball to Nestor Bantayan on the post who made an extra dish off to Bright Akhuetie for the buzzer beating layup for the win, 88-86.
Almost all of the Perpetual Altas players were emotional after the game. A sobbing Coach Aric del Rosario disclosed that he was looking for a type of game like this from his players for so long. “Matagal ko ng hinihintay ‘to. Yun talaga hinahanap ko sa kanila, hanggang sa huli lumalaban.” He added that this win was huge, not only in the standings, but also for the team’s morale.
Bright Akhuetie led the Altas charge with a huge double-double 31 points and 11 rebounds. Smart Elite ambassador Earl Thompson also had another masterful performance with 14 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
The Red Lions were powered by Adeoguns 26 points on 8/10 shooting from the field and 10/10 from the foul line. Art dela Cruz had 15 points as well with eight boards and six dimes but committed eight turnovers.
The Perpetual Altas (9-4) look to extend their winning run as they face the CSB Blazers on Friday, September 18 at 12:00nn while the San Beda Red Lions, who now fall to second place, face the Lyceum Pirates on Thursday, September 17 at 4:00pm.
UPHSD (88) – Akhuetie 31, Thompson 14, Ylagan 14, Sadiwa 10, Oliveria 6, Eze 5, Bantayan 4, Dizon 2, Cabiltes 2, Tamayo 0, Coronel 0, Gallardo 0, Dagangon 0, Elopre 0
SBC (86) – Adeogun 26, Dela Cruz 15, Mocon 12, Koga 11, Amer 10, Tankoua 8, Reyes 4, Cabanag 0, Soberano 0, Sara 0, Presbitero 0, Tongco 0, Solera 0
Quarters: 14-17, 39-35, 61-60, 88-86.