Matt Nieto gets his game-winning moment 11 years in the making

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Oct 08, 2017 08:45 PM
Nieto gets his game-winning moment 11 years in the making
DOING A DOUG KRAMER. Matt Nieto won the game for Ateneo at both ends of the floor.

When Doug Kramer got his game-winner to go for Ateneo de Manila University up against University of Sto. Tomas in the Finals of UAAP Season 69, Matt Nieto was eight-years-old.

Even then, however, he knew he loved Ateneo.

Even then, however, he knew he would have loved being a Blue Eagle.

“Naaalala niyo yung Finals, yung kay Doug Kramer? I was watching in Upper B then,” Nieto shared with reporters. “Last second yun and naisip ko na sana one day, mangyari rin sa akin ‘to at sana one day, maging successful din ako.”

The then eight-year-old’s wish came true on Sunday at the MOA Arena as the Blue Eagles took on their archrival De La Salle University. “I was hoping this happens early in my career and luckily, naging milestone naman ng career ko,” he said.

With Ateneo staring at a one-point deficit with 3.9 ticks to go, Nieto was sent to the line. There, he coolly converted a couple of charities that would prove to be the difference between the archrivals.

“I was just relaxed. We’re always practicing our free throws so it’s always the same routine,” he shared. “I shot it like it’s just my same routine and buti naman, nag-pay off yung practice ko ng free throws.”

As if the stage wasn’t big enough and the lights weren’t bright enough, the point guard had also just split from the stripe just a minute of game time earlier. That miss of his then essentially granted the Green Archers the slight edge with under two minutes to go.

“If you remember, he actually missed one, ‘di ba kaya it was a one-point game,” coach Sandy Arespacochaga said. “So it says a lot about the courage and composure of this young man because he missed the free throw na dapat tie lang (yung score). It says a lot about the maturity of Matt.”

And it wasn’t just at the line where he proved his maturity. It was also his hands that tipped the inbound pass of Kib Montalbo in what ended up to be the game’s decisive possession.

After Ben Mbala granted DLSU a one-point lead with under a minute remaining, all they had to do was inbound the ball and wait to be fouled. Montalbo failed to find Andrei Caracut, however, and had his pass tipped onto the other side of the court.

The ball was saved a couple of times by Gian Mamuyac and Caracut before ending up in the possession of Nieto. “I was denying Andrei and when I looked behind, I saw everybody was denied also so yung chance lang (nila) is Andrei getting the lob from Kib,” he said.

He then continued, “I tried to tempt them to lob the pass and when the lob was there, I just tipped it to our court. Luckily, Gian saw the tap and he got it.”

Not long after, the now 19-year-old made good on the two free throws that allowed Ateneo to triumph over the defending champions who also just happen to be the defending champions in the tournament. “After that, nangyari na yung nangyari,” he said.

Not long after, the now 19-year-old just experienced what he thought Doug Kramer must have felt 11 years ago.


Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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