With just 6 points, Bright Akhuetie proves why he's UAAP 81 MVP
Danine Cruz on Nov 24, 2018 08:19 PM
"I don't want a situation where I tell them I cannot do it." -- Bright Akhuetie
Bright Akhuetie was not playing like an MVP all game long in University of the Philippines' semifinals match against Adamson University, Saturday evening.
He was not taking any shots and was just being steady with the rebounds. He even allowed Papi Sarr to explode for 23 points for the Soaring Falcons.
Clearly, Akhuetie was not his usual dominant self.
But regardless of his silence throughout the match, the rest of the Fighting Maroons still trusted him for the last play - that could give UP its first playoff win since 1997.
Falcon Sean Manganti, who has been a thorn in UP's side, drained two free throws to tie the match at 71-all with 3.7 ticks left.
"For a while, I was like ‘Oh my God, this guy again.’ I looked off, then saw we still had about three seconds to get it back," narrated Akhuetie.
The Fighting Maroons called a timeout to talk things over, and as the players headed back to their positions, the crowd started chanting "Atin 'to! Atin 'to!"
Juan Gomez de Liano inbounded the ball to Akhuetie, who was waiting in the paint, and the MVP just did MVP things.
That screen. That pass. That finish. 👀 pic.twitter.com/8zb1EA3eQn— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) November 24, 2018
Akhuetie made the shot that mattered the most.
That shot propelled UP to just a win away from barging into the Finals for the first time since 1986. It also brought UP their first victory over Adamson since Season 79.
Moments after the euphoric ending, Akhuetie revealed to the press and to his team that he was feeling feverish since the eve of their game. It explained why he was just so-so before the game-winning play.
"May sakit ako eh. I had fever last night and it got worse because of the cold. It's so cold right, you know. So I'm shivering right now," he said.
Despite feeling under the weather, he decided not to tell anyone about his health until the end of the game to preserve the team's morale.
"I don't want a situation where I tell them I cannot do it. I didn't want anything that will bring our spirits down. During the game they were all 'Let's look for Bright' and I said 'No no no, keep playing, we're doing good,'" he recalled.
"So I was just there, doing my job on the rebounding but not forcing anything, not trying to score offensively because it was really hard for me. I was trying to catch my breath, dealing with the cold and it was just too much," Akhuetie added after finishing with a humble line of six points, 14 rebounds, and two steals.
To make the story even more interesting, Akhuetie shared that when they practiced what turned out to be the game-winning play on the eve of the match, it wasn't as amazing as it was in the game.
"You know the funny thing, we practiced this [play]. Coach Bo [Perasol] was like, 'Okay, in case we need a two, we do the alley-oop pass to Bright.' So we did it but we missed it in practice. We laughed through it but thank God it worked today," he shared in between laughs.
Akhuetie and the rest of the Fighting Maroons will take on fellow history-seeking Falcons once again on Wednesday to decide who will make it to the Finals. He assured that on Wednesday, the MVP will be 100-percent again.
"I should be better before then. All I just have to do is get enough rest now and I'll be good," he said.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @the9cruz.