MATT Nieto bailed out a weary Ateneo side anew as it staved off a grizzled Letran squad, 74-72, to book the final semifinals seat in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup on Thursday in San Juan.
Nieto scored back-to-back baskets on almost identical plays to push the Blue Eagles to a hard-earned win a day after arriving from a two-week training camp in Greece.
Trailing by two following a JP Calvo basket, Nieto drove hard, absorbed contact, and made the basket over Jeo Ambohot to tie the game at 72 with 17.1 seconds left in the game.
Nieto missed the free throw, but Ateneo recovered the offensive rebound, allowing Nieto to make up for it with another daredevil drive with 5.4 ticks left which turned out to be the game-winner.
Ambohot had a chance to win the game for the Knights but his three-pointer went a tad left.
"We just got back last night but we went imto this game knowing our situation. Letran played well. They had a good gameplan," said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.
"We didn't play the kind of defense we wanted. In the end it was good that we came up with stops and baskets late in the game," he added.
No player notched double digits for Ateneo but 10 players had at least five points for the reigning UAAP champions.
Matt and Mike Nieto led the way with nine points apiece. Angelo Kouame had 13 rebounds and eight points.
JP Calvo led the Knights with 16 points as Bonbon Batiller added 13 points.
ATENEO 74 — Ma. Nieto 9, Mi. Nieto 9, Kouame 8, Asistio 6, Ravena 6, Wong 6, Navarro 5, Tio 5, Verano 5, Belangel 4, Go 4, White 3, Maagdenberg 2, Mendoza 2, Andrade 0, Black 0, Mamuyac 0.
LETRAN 72 — Calvo 16, Batiller 13, Fajarito 10, Muyang 10, Quinto 10, Celis 4, Agbong 2, Balagasay 2, Balanza 2, Yu 2, Ambohot 1, Mandreza 0, Taladua 0.
Quarters: 15-17, 30-35, 56-52, 74-72.