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La Salle loss giving valuable lessons to Ateneo’s rookie point guards

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One of the key additions for this year’s Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles squad is their rookie point guard troika of Jerie Pingoy, Matthew Nieto and Hubert Cani.

Last October 4, each of their skills were put to the test as they faced long time rival, the De La Salle University Green Archers, in an emotionally-charged game at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. After the game, Tiebreaker Times had the opportunity to talk to the three Ateneo rookies about their first Ateneo-La Salle seniors’ basketball game.

Pingoy eager to bounce back

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times La Salle loss giving valuable lessons to Ateneo’s rookie point guards
A highly-touted candidate, Jerie Pingoy gives Ateneo a solid playmaker that can easily dictate the pace of the game. In seven games played so far, the Cebuano floor general has been averaging 4 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal.

During his Ateneo-La Salle debut, he managed to create wonderful scoring opportunities for his teammates; finishing the game with 6 points, 3 rebounds and 8 assists in 23 minutes of action.

“Siyempre, malungkot kasi first La Salle-Ateneo na laban ko, talo kami. Nandoon na sana pero kinapos lang sa uli pero for sure, we’ll bounce back next game,” Pingoy said. “Well, dati kasi napapanood ko lang ito. Grabe talaga ang mga crowd. I mean, hindi lang iyong about sa laro lang, kung baga fight for the school. Grabe pala maglaro ng ganitong game.”

Pingoy also reminded everyone why he was one of best high school prospects two seasons ago. In spite of being sidelined from a two-year residency, Pingoy has been coming off the bench constantly flashing his playmaking skills for his teammates even in the tightest of defenses. Moreover, Pingoy is improving on a game-by-game basis.

“Well ako naman ginagawa ko ang best ko for the team in distributing the ball and at least naibabalik ko ng dahan-dahan ang game ko,” he added. “Kami naman we’re always ready kasi ang time namin we really need to value that one. Not all the time kasi you’re going to play 40 minutes di ba? So, if ever na bench player man kami, it’s okay with us kasi we’re all ready naman for Ateneo, to fight for the blue and white.”

Learning experiences for Nieto

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times La Salle loss giving valuable lessons to Ateneo’s rookie point guards
Former Ateneo Blue Eaglet Matthew Nieto has been showing impressive signs of adapting well into the collegiate league. He already has five starts under his belt and is currently posting norms of 4.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game.

However, he was in for a huge challenge yesterday as he was matched up with La Salle’s defensive point guard Thomas Torres. He finished the rivalry game with a point, 2 rebounds and 3 assists in 15 minutes of play.

“It is exciting for us since it is my first Ateneo-La Salle game. I’ve been watching that since grade school,” Nieto remarked. “Of course, the ball game didn’t happen the way I liked it to be but siguro sa laro namin madami akong natutunan.”

During the first half, the Blue Eagles gained a huge lead against La Salle as Nieto did a good job in handling the ball and holding down the defense against his La Salle counterparts. However, things started to get difficult for the rookie point guard when the Green Archers made a huge run in the third quarter.

“Since I’m a rookie, I learned a lot from this game like composure, setting up Kiefer [Ravena] and Von [Pessumal], and of course playing more defense,” he added. “Well, La Salle made their run, made their three-pointers and of course we couldn’t ask for more since bumawi sila doon sa nangyari sa kanila in the first half.”

Later on, he also admitted that this loss motivates him to come back stronger when they meet the Archers again in the second round. During his high school years, Nieto never experienced defeat against rival De La Salle-Zobel. He will surely have a chip on his shoulder come their second round encounter.

“Since I’m true blue Atenean, sabi ko nga matalo na sa lahat huwag lang sa La Salle. Ever since sa high school never pa akong natalo against La Salle,” Nieto commented. “But of course God has plans and this is my first loss against La Salle and hopefully last pero hindi naman tayo magsasabi niyan. Masakit, ayaw kong matalo kalaban ang La Salle.”

“It’s an Ateneo-La Salle game, we’re going to throw away all the stats, we’ll don’t care about anything and we just want to win. Ang nangyari sa amin we were there, we were leading ten points sa first half. Pinakita namin na kaya namin sila talagang talunin at hindi lang namin nasustento. Ang plano namin sa second round is masustain namin ang lead and ang killer instinct namin dapat mag-improve kami doon.”

Cani preaches patience

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times La Salle loss giving valuable lessons to Ateneo’s rookie point guards
For the first round, Cani has yet to find his groove but he states that he is always ready should he be summoned from the bench. Cani had minimal playing time in the DLSU-ADMU showdown as he only played three minutes of action in the heated affair.

Knowing that an Ateneo-La Salle match is often a highly pressured one, the more experienced veteran roster will always get chunk of the minutes, since majority of the rookies tend to falter in these kind of games. Even so, the rookies were pushed to perform in the big stage according to the former NU Bullpup.

“Kaming mga rookies, sobrang pressured kami magdeliver this game,” Cani said. “Lahat naman ng rookies ganoon, kailangan bumawi sa second round.”

True enough, jitters were all over the place for the rookies of both teams. But it is understandable, especially when one is part of a rivalry game such as this: the atmosphere is really different, the crowd is raucous and players driven by pure adrenaline.

In order for a rookie like Cani to pace himself in this kind of game, he needs to work well together with his team and settle in for the role that suits him best.

“Tulungan lang kami as a team kasi kaming tatlo ang nagrorotation sa position namin,” he closed. “Every training namin gawin na namin ang best namin.”

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