We just felt that we could’ve won that game -- Montalbo
No comment on that, OK lang? -- Kib Montalbo on De La Salle University's crucial turnover
De La Salle University’s ‘Man of steal’ Kib Montalbo just got a dose of his own medicine.
The guard who gave Ateneo de Manila University fits in the finals last year saw his inbound pass deflected and stolen with nine seconds in the fourth quarter, with the defending champion Green Archers protecting a one-point lead.
It was the Blue Eagles’ last defensive play that forced Montalbo’s crucial blunder, capped by two free throws by Matt Nieto with 3.9 clicks left in an exciting 76-75 windup that ultimately completed Ateneo’s sweep of the first round of the 80th UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the MOA Arena Sunday.
The graduating player, who was having an untimely off night, was mum when asked about the last sequence that sealed the two proud schools' championship rematch.
“No comment on that, OK lang?” said Montalbo as he emerged from the locker room, visibly disappointed in a match that could’ve gone their way.
“We just felt that we could’ve won that game,” he added.
A fact that could’ve made a good comeback story for the Taft-based squad, who got blitzed by the hot outside shooting of the Blue Eagles in the first 10 minutes and trailed 30-16 at the start of the second quarter.
It also didn’t help that DLSU had an atrocious 5-of-13 clip at the line.
“We made a lot of mistakes. Sabihin na lang ni coach Aldin (Ayo) siguro. Pero missed free throws, crucial ‘yun,” said Montalbo. “Probably lacking din in defense since pasok lahat ng three points nila in the first quarter, they made six.”
“We were hyped up pero they just shot the lights out,” he added.
Montalbo scored only three points off a triple that he nailed to break the ice in the first quarter, in a 1-of-8 field goal shooting outing and committed five turnovers, none bigger than the flubbed inbound.
DLSU rallied to take a 75-74 lead with 1:03 remaining in the game off a pair of charities by Ben Mbala.
Ricci Rivero had a defensive gem, blocking Thirdy Ravena’s drive attempt from the back as the shot clock expired. Looking to seal the match, DLSU called time to plot one last play.
But the Ateneo had a better defensive plan.
The Blue Eagles denied Montalbo a clear look for a pass and was forced to lob the ball to Andrei Caracut, a pass that Nieto read well for the deflection.
Coming out of nowhere, Blue Eagle Gian Mamuyac tapped the loose ball to Andrei Caracut’s foot. The Green Archer was able to save the ball but threw it directly into Nieto’s hands, who then drove hard to the basket as Montalbo was called for a foul.
Nieto calmly sank his foul shots to put Ateneo on top.
With 3.9 seconds left, DLSU got a chance to turn the game around but Montalbo’s shot off the glass just grazed the side of the rim as time expired.
It was a sorry loss but Montalbo and the rest of the Green Archers just want to move on and look for a bounce back win on Wednesday against Far Eastern University at the start of the second round.
“Thank you Lord nga na Wednesday kaagad ang game at least di malala yung sakit,” said Montalbo. “Babawi talaga kami. We’ll get that victory.”
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