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Prince shines as Perpetual pips Arellano

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Tomorrow
(Perpetual Help gym)
2 p.m. – Perpetual Help vs San Beda (Juniors)
4 p.m. – Perpetual Help vs San Beda (Seniors)

From an assuming prince to an undisputed king.

Nigerian big man Prince Eze did his best impersonation of former teammate Bright Akhuetie yesterday and helped power Perpetual Help to a 68-59 victory over a skidding Arellano University to put its NCAA seniors basketball tourney title campaign back on track at The Arena in San Juan City.

Now the Altas’ main big man following the departure of the bull-strong Akhuetie in the off-season to join University of the Philippines in the UAAP, the 6-foot-11 Eze stood tallest – literally and figuratively – over the Chiefs as he came up with a monster double-double performance of 23 points – his career-high – and 21 rebounds on top of five blocks and a steal in 33 minutes of play.

Eze also got a solid support from veterans GJ Ylagan and Gab Dagangon in the stretch as Perpetual Help stopped a two-game bleeding and improved its mark to 3-4, keeping itself in the middle pack of the 10-team field.

“Talagang gusto naming manalo. Kailangan rin namin ipanalo ‘yung game na ito para makabawi at mawala ‘yung sakit ng talo namin against Letran,” admitted Altas coach Jimwell Gican, referring to their painful 61-63 loss to the Knights last Friday.

“Ang sama ng game na ‘yun. Nightmare para sa amin ‘yun. Good thing, nagtiwala ‘yung mga players. They executed well, especially on defense. Gumana rin ‘yung offense.

Indeed. Despite blowing an early 14-point lead and allowing the Chiefs to tie things up at 44-all late in the third canto, the Altas got their second wind behind Ylagan and Dagangon who combined for 15 markers, putting them back in control at 58-49 with more than four minutes to play.

In the other match, a well-rested Jose Rizal University side compounded the woes of an Emilio Aguinaldo College crew still learning how to live without ace center Hamadou Laminou.

Forward Ervin Grospe sizzled with 19 points but it was the Heavy Bombers’ suffocating defense against the Generals which did the trick, leading to a dominant 77-48 victory while jacking up their record to an even 3-3 mark.

It was the second straight loss for EAC, which hardly showed any fight in dropping to a 3-4 slate as the Generals visibly missed the presence of the 6-foot-8 Laminou who was already ruled out of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee last week.

Arellano tried hard to fight back behind the exploits of unheralded Michael Canete and Richard Abanes but the Chiefs could only pull the closest at three, the last at 59-62, time down to just 50.3 seconds.