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Aurin, Eze combine as Altas clip Cardinals

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Perpetual Help leaned on the duo of Kim Aurin and Nigerian Prince Eze as it overcame Mapua, 74-68, to grab solo third spot in the 94th NCAA basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.

Aurin, a transferee from Jose Rizal, came through with his best game thus far with 22 points, four rebounds, five assists and five steals while the 6-9 Eze powered his way to 19 points, 19 boards and one block as the Altas rolled to their third straight win and fifth overall, good enough to bump off the Letran Knights (4-2) at No. 3.

The Las Pinas-based school also surpassed their forgettable 4-14 (win-loss) performance a season ago.

And Perpetual Help did it with a new coach in Frankie Lim and 11 new players including the multi-faceted Aurin.

And that is the reason Lim, who won four NCAA championships with San Beda a decade ago before bringing his act to Perpetual Help, has given his practically youth-laden team a chance to grow.

“We have 11 new players, don’t forget that. We need to give them leeway and place and time to learn,” said Lim. “We saw good things especially in the second half of our last game (versus JRU) and those things are going to help us a lot in winning games.”

After a closely-fought first half, the Cardinals took a 48-44 lead on the sweet shooting of Cedric Pelayo early in the third quarter.

But Eze bulldozed his way to nine points in a 13-4 blast detonated by Perpetual Help to close the quarter seizing a 57-52 lead.

A rim-rattling Eze dunk capped a 9-3 exchange to start the final period that saw the Altas erect a 66-55 lead, their largest of the game.

But just when Perpetual Help was about to celebrate neophyte Warren Bonifacio and Pelayo help spark a 9-0 blitz that helped Mapua close the gap at 64-66 with less than three minutes to go.

It turned out the Cardinals’ last show of force as the Altas traded baskets from there to preserve the triumph.

Mapua sank to 2-6 (win-loss).

The boxscores:

Perpetual Help 74 – Aurin 22, Eze 19, Coronel 14, Razon 5, Charcos 5, Peralta 4, Cuevas 3, Mangalino 2, Sese 0

Mapua 68 – Bonifacio 13, Pelayo 10, Aguirre 10, Lugo 7, Biteng 7, Jabel 6, Salenga 6, Gamboa 5, Bunag 2, Serrano 2, Garcia 0, Pajarillo 0

Quarterscores: 22-22; 34-33; 57-52; 74-68