THERE’S certainly no excuses for Mike Nieto and the rest of the Ateneo Blue Eaglets following their 76-72 loss to defending champion National University Bullpups in the opener of the UAAP juniors basketball finals Friday at The Arena in San Juan.
The reigning league MVP said rust from the two-week break which the team had prior to the title series shouldn't be a reason for them to lose Game One of the title series.
“Hindi puwedeng excuse ‘yung kinalawang kami,” said Nieto after the game which marked the first time the Blue Eaglets lost this season following their 14-game sweep of the eliminations.
“Siguro nabigla ‘yung team. Focused kasi kami sa offense. Ang main problem namin is dahil maraming tao, hindi maalis sa amin ‘yung gustong magpasikat.”
The 17-year-old senior also pointed out the team veered away from playing defense and instead, concentrated on trying to score more.
“Na-sweep namin ‘yung season dahil sa defense pero nag-shift kami sa offense,” said Nieto, who finished with 25 points on 6-of-16 shooting from the field, and eight rebounds.
His twin brother Matt for his part, said NU wanted the game more, knowing that a loss will put the Bullpups in a deeper hole since the Blue Eaglets hold a thrice-to-beat advantage in the finals.
“In-emphasize ng mga coaches na mas gustong manalo ng NU, which they showed in the game kasi kapag natalo pa sila, mas malaki ang chance na hindi na sila mananalo. Kaya doble ang in-effort nila,” said Matt.
Matt, who scored 19 points in a losing effort, said the loss is definitely a wake-up call for the Blue Eaglets in their attempt to regain the crown before he and brother Mike move to the Ateneo seniors team.
“Parang binaba kami ni Lord sa lupa,” said Matt. “Mataas na ‘yung tingin namin sa sarili namin. Siguro lesson ito na mas kailangan naming paghirapan ‘yung championship.”
Jolo Mendoza meanwhile, stressed Ateneo failed to share the ball.
“If we had 15 or more assists, we win the game. We had only 13. Siguro next game, we had to share the ball more and open up opportunities for my teammates,” he said.
Following the defeat, Mike Nieto vowed defense will be Ateneo’s main focus in Game Two.
“Bawi talaga. Expect more defense from us,” said Mike.