Game 1 goes to Ateneo behind tough Nieto brothers
BLOOD, SWEAT, TEARS. Matt Nieto and Ateneo left their all on the floor to take Game 1 from archrival DLSU.
Matt Nieto is going to have a battle scar above his left eye after Ateneo de Manila University’s battle with archrival De La Salle University on Saturday at the MOA Arena.
Nieto would gladly take it, however, as it would serve as a reminder of the Blue Eagles gritty triumph over the Green Archers, 76-70, to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Finals in the UAAP 80 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Katipunan’s court general was wounded when he got inadvertently hit by Ben Mbala’s elbow in the second quarter. “No matter what, I’m willing to give up anything, even my face, for the win,” he told reporters in the post-win interview.
Still, he soldiered on and was at the forefront of his team’s march forward now one win away from the championship. “I’d like to credit our players because they implemented the game plan. There were some mistakes, but more or less, we were happy with how they executed,” coach Sandy Arespacochaga said.
Matt had a lot of help in the form of twin Mike who had an 11-point outburst in Ateneo’s 13-2 run to erase a one-point deficit late in the third and erect a 69-59 advantage with under seven minutes left in the fourth.
Aljun Melecio would not let the Green Archers give up that easy, however, and scored back-to-back short stabs to pull them within 70-71 inside the last three minutes.
That was the closest they would come, however, as outstanding defense along with Thirdy Ravena’s follow-up and Isaac Go’s three-point play put the game away for good in favor of the Blue Eagles.
In the end, Matt had 11 points and three assists while Mike had 11 markers of his own to go with five rebounds. Of course, Ravena was also there with 12 caroms, six boards, and four dimes.
Go only wound up with five points and two rebounds, but together with Chibueze Ikeh, shackled down soon-to-be back-to-back MVP Ben Mbala to a career-low eight points and three turnovers. “We couldn’t play Ben Mbala straight up one-on-one. We needed all of our five guys to come up and do their roles in order to slow down Ben,” Arespacochaga said.
The entire Katipunan defense wasn’t so bad either, as they held all of their opponents not named Melecio under 10 points.
With this morale-boosting win, they are looking to take home their first championship in five years in Game 2 on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
On the other hand, DLSU hopes that Melecio continues his hot-shooting with 24 points on top of three assists and three steals in this one.
They also hope from a big-time bounce back from Mbala as well as Ricci Rivero and Kib Montalbo who combined for only 13 points in 5-of-16 shooting together with six turnovers.
ATENEO 76 – Ravena 12, Nieto Ma 11, Nieto Mi 11, Asistio 10, Tolentino 9, Black 7, Verano 5, Go 5, Ikeh 4, Tio 2, Mamuyac 0, Mendoza 0, Porter 0
DLSU 70 – Melecio 24, Rivero R 10, Mbala 8, Tratter 7, Santillan 7, Rivero P 7, Baltazar 4, Montalbo 3, Caracut 0, Go 0, Tero 0, Paraiso 0
QUARTER SCORES: 26-14, 43-39, 60-58, 76-70
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