Twins Matt and Mike Nieto have been through many wars with the Ateneo de Manila University. During their high school days, they were able to steer the Blue Eaglets to numerous Finals appearances, winning one during their senior year.
This time around, the stakes could not be any higher for the twins, as the Blue Eagles will figure in a winner-take-all Finals game against fierce rivals De La Salle University Green Archers on Sunday.
However, the series would not have reached a rubber match if it were not for the demoralizing second half collapse of the Blue Eagles last Wednesday.
“Well, siguro you guys saw our best and at the same time our worst game in one single game against La Salle. Wala eh, siguro we just didn’t follow the system in the second half,” lamented Ateneo co-captain Mike Nieto, who was held scoreless in the game.
“We just scored eight points in the third quarter, we were more individual than teamwork during the second half.”
“Kami ‘yung nagpabaya sa sarili namin. Nawala ‘yung composure namin, nawala ‘yung pag-stick namin sa game plan, binale-wala lang namin kasi akala namin kaya namin pag hindi namin sinundan ‘yung system,” added Matt, who finished with 10 points but need 14 attempts to do so.
“So the blame is on us.”
After leading by as much as 21 points in the first half, the defending champions tried to get inspiration from wherever they could, to spark a rally. But as La Salle rallied, Ateneo crumbled, especially when faced with a 13-point deficit with four minutes remaining — the Green Archers’ biggest lead against the Blue Eagles this season.
“Siguro masakit lang naman dito sa game na ito is lumamang na kami ng 21 points and then nawala pa,” recalled Mike, who is averaging 5.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in the finals.
“We haven’t experienced this type of situation. Last year we were 0-2 eh, ngayon lang namin natikman ‘yung first win, and probably ‘yung second win, so well, it’s a learning experience for us,” said Matt, who chose not to stitch the wound on his left eyebrow he sustained in Game One.
But just as they have always been, the twins remain defiant.
Though La Salle may have gained the momentum after making an epic Game Two comeback, the third-year Ateneans know that they have one thing going: the will to not get a repeat of last year’s results.
“We know that we’re tougher and we know that we can handle that challenge against La Salle. And we know, we trust in ourselves, we trust in our team, and of course, we trust in coach Tab [Baldwin],” said Matt.
“He can lead us to the Promised Land.”
“But you know, lahat kami, we’ll fight on Sunday, we’ll be ready. Kami ni Vince, nag-usap na kami, and we’ll just enjoy it. It’s another opportunity for us to showcase our talent,” closed Mike.
“We promise you guys that we’ll fight and we’ll get that on Sunday.”