Facing a team with virtually no size in the front court, Bright Akhuetie thoroughly demolished the College of Saint Benilde Blazers and led his University of Perpetual Help Altas to a 77-69 victory in the NCAA Season 91 Men’s Basketball Tournament at the FilOil Flying-V Arena.
The 6’8″Nigerian, Akhuetie controlled the paint and scored at will with his plethora of dribble moves and aerial maneuvers. Akhuetie issued a monstrous stat line of 44 points, 17 boards, two blocks, two assists, and two steals. Akhuetie mirrored his effort in the FilOil preseason tournament where the big man dropped 35 points and 20 rebounds on the Blazers.
Bright got his act going early, scoring 13 of his team’s 17 first quarter points while also inhaling nine rebounds. However, Benilde kept themselves afloat by finding JR Ongteco with easy drop passes, giving Ongteco six earlt points and keeping Benilde close at the end of the first quarter, 11-17.
Adjusting their defense to a modified pressing zone did not help the Blazers stop Akhuetie in the second quarter. Bright notched 14 points in the quarter alone highlighted by two old-fashioned three point plays. Jonathan Grey and JR Ongteco combined for 14 points in the quarter but was unable to keep Perpetual’s lead from ballooning to 12, 40-28, at the end of the first half.
The Blazers slowed the pace significantly for much of the third quarter as they forced the Altas into the penalty with 5:18 in the clock. Grey followed a Travis Johnson triple with a jumper that cut the Perpetual lead to five, 46-51 but that was the closest the Blazers got for the rest of the match. Scottie Thompson converted on his patented scoop shot then Akhuetie tipped in a Thompson miss to restore Perpetual’s dominance, 55-46. Johnson then followed his own miss to beat the buzzer, giving momentum and 48-55 gap to the Blazers.
The Altas blew the lid off the game in the fourth period, coaxing Benilde into multiple turnovers and scoring off easy layups on the other end. Akhuetie finished off his masterful performance with 12 points in the payoff period and two rim-rattling dunks off Blazer turnovers. Had Blazers’ rookie Jayjay Domingo not scored nine points in garbage time, the final score would have illustrated a much more dominant win for the Altas.
Coach Aric del Rosario, after years of not having a player who can man the paint, called Akhuetie as a “gift from heaven.” “Hulog siya ng langit sa amin,” the veteran coach quipped. “Isa na siguro siya sa pinakamagaling na big man na napunta sa team ko. Pagdating niya dito hindi siya marunong maglaro pero ngayon, marunong na. Madali pa siyang turuan.”
The Altas were led by the 44 big points of Bright Akhuetie, the biggest scoring production in the league since 2009. Reigning MVP Earl Thompson also notched a triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. For the Green side, big man JR Ongteco led the team with 23 points while Jonathan Grey scored 18 points, grabbed seven boards, dished out five assists, and stole the ball two times.
The Altas are undefeated in two contests and will face the Mapua Cardinals on Tuesday, July 7 at 4:00pm. CSB is yet to win a game and will look to end their futility against the EAC Generals at 2:00pm on the same day.
UPHSD (77) – Akhuetie 44, Thompson 14, Coronel 8, Oliveria 4, Ylagan 4, Dagangon 3, Gallardo 0, Tamayo 0, Dizon 0, Sadiwa 0, Elopre 0, Cabiltes 0, Pido 0
CSB (69) – Ongteco 23, Grey 18, Domingo 9, Jonson 9, Fajarito 3, Nayve 2, Castor 2, Saavedra 2, San Juan 1, Sta. Maria 0
Quarters: 17-11, 40-28, 55-48, 77-69