Perpetual Help drew strength from Bright Akhuetie and a strong defensive effort in the fourth quarter as it survived Lyceum of the Philippines University, 71-68, to seize a share of second place with reigning titlist Letran and Mapua in the NCAA Season 92 Men’s Basketball Division at the FilOil Flyhing V Arena, San Juan on Friday.
Struggling most of the game, Akhuetie imposed his will in the final period as he banged in 10 of his 13 points in the quarter while the Altas held the Pirates scoreless in the first six minutes of the same canto to help them snare their third straight win and fifth overall against two losses.
More importantly, it sent the Las Pinas-based dribblers from joint No. 4 with Arellano U to a share of No. 2 with Mapua and Letran, or just two games behind solo leader San Beda.
“It was our defense that helped us and we never gave up”, said Perpetual Help coach Gimwell Gican of his squad’s hard-earned victory.
“Bright (Akhuetie) also stepped up big even though he struggled almost the whole game”, the Coach added.
The Pirates had one last chance to tie the game and force overtime but Shaq Alanes, who drained a triple the play before, couldn’t hit a three-pointer at the buzzer this time as they saw their three-game streak halted and dropped to 3-4 (win-loss).
The Altas turned a 54-55 deficit at the end of the quarter to a 62-55 lead on a Daryl Singontiko triple in the first six-minute span of the final canto before Cameroonian Mark Nzeusseu unleashed a vicious dunk to end the long drought.
After a heated 8-6 exchange highlighted by Akhuetie’s three-point play completion, neophyte Ian Alban scored on a layup in heavy traffic and Alanes sank a booming triple to push LPU to within two, 68-70, with 10 seconds remaining.
Gab Dagangon, who led the team with 16 points, missed the first free throw but made the second, giving Perpetual Help a three-point cushion and LPU 5.4 seconds to orchestrate one final play to salvage the game.
It failed on that painful Alanes miss.
Mike Nzeusseu, a Cameroonian transferee who was instrumental in University of Visayas’ title run in Cebu’s CESAFI four years ago, have outplayed Akhuetie in the first three quarters but tired out in the end as the latter came in fresher after he split time with fellow Nigerian Prince Eze.
Nzeusseu finished the game with 18 points, 11 boards and four blocks.
Flash Gordon Sadiwa provided some significant help as he came off the bench after starting point guard Kieth Pido encountered foul trouble and was part of the rotation that helped hold LPU scoreless for that decisive six-minute span.
He finished with six points, four assists and three caroms
Perpetual Help Altas (71) – Dagangon 16, Akhuetie 13, Eze 10, Pido 10, Coronel 7, Sadiwa 6, Oliveria 4, Singontiko 3, Hao 2, Dizon 0, Yuhico 0
Lyceum Pirates (68) – Nzeusseu 18, Ayaay 15, Alban 8, Alanes 7, Caduyac 7, Marata 3, Serafico 2, Malabanan 0, Rubite 0
Quarterscores: 19-21; 36-40; 54-55; 71-68