Young and old
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2019 - 12:00am

It was a match-up between the PBA Commissioner’s Cup youngest and oldest imports. NorthPort’s Prince Ibeh, 24, went toe-to-toe against Alaska’s Chris Daniels, 35, in a much-ballyhooed battle of ages at the Ynares Center in Antipolo last Wednesday. In the end, neither played a dominant role in deciding the outcome. The locals made the difference as the Batang Pier won, 103-81. 

Ibeh has never been known as a high-scoring center. In four years with the University of Texas varsity, he never averaged more than 4.1 points and as a senior in 2015-16, shot a dismal 41.8 percent from the line. Before landing in Manila, Ibeh saw action in the Japanese minor league and hit at a 4.8 point clip in 18 forgettable contests. So it was no surprise that in the first half against Alaska, Ibeh took only four shots from the field and missed all three free throws. 

To NorthPort coach Pido Jarencio’s credit, he figured out a way to get Ibeh involved in the offense. Ibeh wound up with 19 points on 9-of-14 field goals and 1-of-4 free throws in 40:03 minutes. He also had 13 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. Ibeh scored on put-backs from offensive rebounds and drop passes inside the lane. His offensive moves are limited so as the conference progresses, opposing teams will know how to keep him away from the interior. He has difficulty dribbling and can’t score from beyond five feet so if the defense pushes him out of the low block, his offense will disintegrate.

Daniels got off to a strong start, scoring nine points in the first period and finishing with 16 at the half. But he lost steam down the stretch as NorthPort went up-and-down the floor, scorching on fastbreaks. NorthPort wound up with 17 transition points to Alaska’s 11. Daniels was held to only two points in the final period.

A former PBA coach said Daniels was on their radar as an import eight years ago at the prime of his career. How much mileage Daniels has left in his engine remains a question mark. Still, in his PBA debut last Sunday, Daniels didn’t do badly as he compiled 25 points and 16 rebounds in 33:51 minutes. He had only one turnover in a highly-efficient performance, shooting 68.8 percent from the floor. But against NorthPort, he faded when Alaska coach Alex Compton needed him to step up.

Daniels averaged in double figure points in three of his four years with the Texas A&M varsity. He’s coming off a stint with Al Riyadi in Lebanon where he averaged 12.3 points and 7.6 rebounds in 35 outings. In 2017, Daniels led Al Riyadi to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup title with 21 points and 10 rebounds over Kashgar of China in the final. Before making his way to Manila, he played in Korea, Puerto Rico, China, Argentina and Lebanon.

Ibeh, who majored in Applied Learning and Development with a minor in psychology in Texas, was born in London and moved to the US when he was five. With the Longhorns varsity, Ibeh was never expected to deliver a truckload of points. “Prince can run,” said Texas coach Rick Barnes. “He could go out there and run with our guards. He’s a guy that’s gonna affect the game defensively more than he would on the offensive end. He’s gonna challenge shots.” College basketball writer Tully Corcoran said what Ibeh isn’t likely to do is to score a lot of points.

Jarencio worked with a 10-man rotation as Stanley Pringle sat out the action, recovering from a minor surgery. Walloping Alaska without Pringle showed NorthPort’s resiliency and Jarencio’s ability to generate the most of his available pieces. Sean Anthony was his usual workhorse self with 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Robert Bolick had 19 points and five assists. Jonathan Grey hit 13 and Mo Tautuaa collected 12 points, nine rebounds, six dimes and three steals. NorthPort pounced on Alaska’s weakness in the middle and scored 56 points in the paint compared to the Aces’ 24, leading to a higher field goal clip, 48.8 percent to 39.7.

In the previous Commissioner’s Cup, Alaska beat NorthPort (then GlobalPort), 109-103 with import Antonio Campbell against the Batang Pier’s Malcolm White. In the just-ended Philippine Cup, NorthPort ranked No. 7 at the end of the eliminations and was ousted by Rain or Shine in the playoffs. NorthPort had a twice-to-win disadvantage and was bundled out by the Painters in one game, 91-85. Anthony missed the contest and Pringle was limited to nine points, the second straight game he was down to less than double figures after a streak of 10 straight contests in twin digits. Bolick was a non-factor with five points but still finished the conference averaging 10.2 points as a rookie. Jarencio learned from the setback that NorthPort won’t go far relying on one or two players. Against Alaska last Wednesday, NorthPort got the job done with a total team effort and it showed in racking up 23 assists as five players scored in double figures.

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