UAAP 82: Ateneo captain Mike Nieto: '14-0 doesn't mean a thing without a ring'

By Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Nov 16, 2019 10:56 AM

(Photo by Arvin Lim)

Ateneo de Manila University has dominated the recent history of the UAAP Men's Basketball Tournament - having won seven of the last 11 championships.

The Blue Eagles, however, have yet to sweep the season.

The three-peat seeking titlists have a golden opportunity to do just that in Season 82 as they just need two more wins at the expense of dangerous University of Sto. Tomas.

"Ang sarap. Ang sarap sa feeling," team captain Mike Nieto said right after they completed a clean sweep of the elimination round last October 30. "Actually, ngayon lang namin nalamang (school) history pala. Akala namin, may nakagawa na before."

Make no mistake, though, even with a two-week layoff, Ateneo remains determined. "We're just blessed, but the mission isn't done yet. 14-0 doesn't mean a thing without a ring so we're just hungry for more," Nieto said.

After all, the Nietos know a thing or two about falling short of a season sweep.

"Of course, it's a fact that we lost Game 1 when we were in high school so ayaw naming maulit yun," twin Matt said. "We're more experienced now than we were in high school so we're gonna learn from those mistakes before."

Back in their last season as Blue Eaglets in 2015, the Nieto twins, alongside Gian Mamuyac, Jolo Mendoza, and Shaun Ildefonso, won all of their games in the elimination round.

Come Game 1 of the Finals, though, they fell victim to a determined Philip Manalang and Nazareth School of National University.

Ultimately, Ateneo's Jrs. team still hoisted the trophy, but fell short of a season sweep.

Three years later, it was déjà vu - only this time it happened to SJ Belangel, Jason Credo, Dave Ildefonso, Joaqui Manuel, and Kai Sotto.

That fearsome five led the Blue Eaglets to another 14-0 run in the elimination round and then proceeded to win the first game of the championship round.

Migs Oczon caught fire in Game 2, however, and claimed it for the Bullpups.

Again, Ateneo prevailed in Game 3, but again, fell short of a season sweep.

Now, Belangel and Credo are part of a Srs. squad trying to make history - and for the former, complacency is the no. 1 enemy.

"Yung complacency, iiwasan talaga dapat yun kasi yun nga, nung Jrs., yun yung natutunan namin e," he shared. "Nung natalo kami, nandun pa si Coach Tab [Baldwin] so sabi niya nung practice kinabukasan, hindi kami naglaro as a team at masyadong relaxed. So nung Game 3, talagang nag-bounce back kami."


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