Stopping Mapua’s prized import Allwell Oraeme is virtually stopping the entire Cardinals crew.
That’s what Perpetual Help import Bright Akhuetie felt following the Altas’ impressive 71-51 victory over Oraeme and the Cardinals on Thursday to sustain their winning form in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney at The Arena in San Juan City.
The 6-foot-9 Oraeme, the league’s reigning MVP, was far from his usual dominant form and was clearly outplayed by the smaller but quicker Akhuetie, coming up with just six points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field on top of 13 rebounds, four blocks and assist against five errors, four of them during their lackluster first half play.
In contrast, the 6-foot-7 Akhuetie dished out a double-double performance of 11 points and 12 rebounds while anchoring the Altas’ interior defense on their way to a fifth straight victory and seventh overall in nine matches, good for second spot behind host San Beda (7-0).
The Cardinals found themselves suddenly struggling as they suffered their second straight loss and third overall in eight matches, dropping out of the Final Four positions to fifth spot.
Pleased with his defensive job on Oraeme who was held down from his previous game averages of 17.7 markers and 19.3 boards per game, Akhuetie said: “Today I really came to play defense against him. I know if we can stop him from getting more rebounds and putting it back, (we’ll have better chances to win.) I specifically came out to play ‘D’ on him.”
Even Perpetual Help’s top local Gab Dagangon, who produced his second straight double-double of 20 markers and 11 rebounds, echoed Akhuetie’s sentiments, saying: “Ang game plan namin, i-stop talaga si Oraeme. Buti naman at nagawa namin.”
The Altas’ stingy defense on Oraeme underscored the biggest factor in their five-game winning run when they have limited their opponents to just 56.4 points per outing.
“Kung kailangan naming mag-stick sa play na ‘yan, gagawin namin kasi ‘yan ang advantage namin,” shared Perpetual Help coach Jimwell Gican. – By Jerome Lagunzad
Follow this writer on Twitter: @JLFoxSports