BEN Mbala said he had no intention of hurting Matt Nieto after the La Salle center inadvertently hit the Ateneo guard with an elbow during Game One of the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball finals on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
With 36.6 seconds left in the second quarter, Nieto was caught with an elbow by Mbala after a spin move that left the Ateneo guard suffering a cut above his left eye. Nieto was called for a foul, prompting several Ateneo fans to boo the referees as well as Mbala.
The two-time UAAP MMVP made it clear he was not trying to hurt Nieto on the play, saying what happened is part of game.
“It’s part of basketball,” Mbala said. “I had the ball. I spin. He was late on the rotation on the double. That’s why he got hit. I didn’t try to hit him or hurt him.”
Mbala also claimed Nieto’s dad, former Ateneo cager Jett cursed and threatened him moments after the incident.
“I don’t know why his dad was cursing at me and threatening me. It’s not something that he should be doing. He’s been in the world of sport for quite some time. We all know things like that can happen all the time," he said.
“I was not trying to listen to what he was saying but from what I saw him do, he was threatening me, point at me, and say 'I’m dead.' That’s something that he should not be doing in the finals games, especially that you are the father of two of the players on the court. He should not be doing that,” Mbala added.
SPIN.ph is still trying to get the side of Jett Nieto about Mbala’s statements as of posting time.
However, Mbala said he understood the reaction of Matt’s father as it was a heated game and the incident involved his son.
Mbala is now looking to put the incident behind as La Salle looks to force a rubber match on Wednesday.
“I don’t want to mind that. It was probably the emotion of the game and seeing his son on the floor. It was part of the game. I will just let it go. I didn’t intend to hurt his son. I just spin and he was late,” said Mbala.