A DAY before the biggest game of University of the Philippines in 21 years, the road was shaping up to be dim for MVP frontrunner Bright Akhuetie.
Usually the brute force that anchors the Fighting Maroons in the paint, the timing couldn’t have been any worse for Akhuetie as he went down with a flu the night before the Fighting Maroons’ semis clash with the Adamson Falcons.
Akhuetie decided to keep it to himself and just work through it.
“I was really really cold. I was shivering. It was last night. I didn’t want to tell them that will bring their spirits down and during they were like, ‘let’s look for Bright,’ I was like keep playing we’re doing good,” said Akhuetie.
“They knew about it during the game. They were asking me, are you okay? I said yeah, I’ll keep going,” he added.
That’s why it came as a surprise that Akhuetie finished with just six points, though he did everything else on the defensive end as he finished with 14 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Akhuetie said that he just wanted to pace himself to still be able to help out his team – albeit not offensively.
“I don’t want to be in the situation where I tell them that I can’t do it and their spirits will go down and I won’t be able to play so I was just there, doing my job on the rebounding, not forcing anything, not trying to score offensively because it was really hard for me,” Akhuetie explained.
“I was trying to catch my breath, dealing with the cold and it was just too much. So I can’t tell them that I won’t be able to play, it’s gonna be bad. I just psyched myself, whatever it is, stay there and lead these guys,” he added.
Akhuetie however scored the points which mattered as he drained an under-goal stab off a set play with 2.6 seconds remaining to lead UP to a 73-71 victory and force a decider on Wednesday.
The 6-foot-6 Nigerian reinforcement shared that they have been practicing that play in their final practice, and he even missed that shot when given to him.
Luckily, it went in when it mattered the most.
“The funny thing is we practiced this, coach Bo was like, ‘let’s do this, in case we need a three this is what we do, if we need a two, the alley-oop we look for Bright.’ I didn’t make it. I missed it in practice. Now we all laughed about it. Thankfully we made it today,” said Akhuetie.
“I only scored two points in this game. The one in the end, that’s the one which matters.”