In a thrilling showdown between Adamson University and Ateneo De Manila University in the 2023 FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup, Matthew Montebon, a 6-foot guard from Newark, California, emerged as the hero, securing a thrilling 61-60 victory for the Soaring Falcons.
Montebon’s buzzer-beating trey in the fourth quarter reversed the team’s fortunes, erasing a two-point deficit of 58-60 and sealing a memorable triumph.
For Montebon, this triumph held a bittersweet significance. Last season, during UAAP Season 85, he could only watch from the sidelines as Adamson fell to Ateneo in the Final Four due to residency requirements.
The memory of that loss fueled his desire to help his team this year and defeat the reigning Season 85 champions. This victory in the preseason tournament marked a significant step forward for Montebon and his teammates, serving as a valuable learning experience.
Reflecting on the win, Montebon shared his mixed emotions, saying, “I would say bittersweet because just being there last year not being able to play, and then seeing us losing against them in the playoffs, just watching it, I’ve always wanted to help not just them, every team.
“But just watching them beat us in the playoffs, I wanted to help out and try to beat them this year, so just a stepping stone.”
The game began with Adamson facing a daunting 27-point deficit, trailing 18-45 in the first half. However, a strategic shift to a zone defense in the fourth quarter turned the tide in favor of the Soaring Falcons, stifling the offensive prowess of the Blue Eagles.
Still down by 41-57 with just 6:29 remaining, Adamson initiated a blazing 17-2 run, slashing the lead to a mere point.
In a crucial moment, Ian Espinosa was sent to the free-throw line but could only convert one shot, granting Adamson an opportunity.
Seizing the chance, Montebon delivered his first-ever game-winning shot, igniting jubilation and satisfaction within himself and the team.
“As far as I remember yeah, I don’t remember any game-winning shots, most of them are like there was a few seconds left, so I would say yeah,” Montebon shared after their hard-fought 61-60 victory over the Blue Eagles.
Prior to joining Adamson, Montebon studied and played basketball at Paul Smith’s College in New York.
Initially planning to join Adamson after high school, the pandemic disrupted his plans. When normalcy gradually returned, Montebon wasted no time in making the decision to play for the Soaring Falcons.
“I was planning to come here after high school, but the pandemic happened, so I wasn’t able to visit any schools and stuff like that,” he explained.
“So I sat out for one year, and then when things opened up, I decided to come out here.”
With his floor generalship, Montebon is a strong contender to fill the shoes of Jerom Lastimosa next season after Season 86. Lastimosa has been an influential figure to Montebon, acting as an older brother who nurtures him and imparts valuable wisdom for the game.
Montebon is also grateful for Racela’s mentorship as he slowly gains confidence to show that he is capable of stepping up for the team.
“I’m super thankful. Every day in practice, he’s on me. Whenever I mess up, he’s always giving me tips and advice,” expressed Montebon.
“There was a moment when I hesitated to shoot the ball, and he came onto the court, called a timeout, and specifically told me to take shots. That really motivated me and got me going. So, I’m extremely grateful.”