MANILA, Philippines – Better late than never, they always say.
The Nieto twins Matt and Mike were noticeably absent from the lineup as UAAP champion Ateneo Blue Eagles faced NCAA kings San Beda Red Lions in Game 1 of the PCCL President's Cup semifinals.
Apparently, the twins along with Jolo Mendoza and Tyler Tio were all late for the right reason.
"It's our first day of classes today and we really have a class schedule of 1:30 to 4:30 every Monday, so we had no choice," Matt explained.
"We really have to attend that because it's the first day of classes and we don't want to say we missed a class because of a basketball game. Because that had always been our excuse in the first sem. Our priority for the whole team, not just for the late ones, is education. Studies really go first."
With their class ending at 4:30 pm, the 4 players still rushed to the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan for the 4 pm match. However, it was evident that none of them were in game shape.
The two stalwarts suddenly appeared midway through the 3rd quarter as the Eagles were in the midst of absorbing a 14-0 attack by the Red Lions which ultimately dictated the pace down the stretch.
In the end, both of them went scoreless in 6 minutes of action as Ateneo fell to San Beda, 43-49.
Still, champion floor general Matt wanted to get out there and contribute in any way.
"If you ask us, we really want to play because it's the champions in the NCAA versus champions in the UAAP. Really, for us, it's all about pride that we're fighting for. But of course, in Ateneo, it's always studies first," he said.
Facing elimination against a Red Lions squad no longer fielding Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon, Matt is itching to get in shape and get even on Thursday, January 24.
"Ateneo and San Beda are really defensive teams. We really have pride in our defense. We probably have to improve our pick-and-rolls and reads. We're a bit rusty because we just practiced as a team again last Thursday. Our timing is still a bit off, so tomorrow and Wednesday, we'll just try to get back in shape."
On Thursday, Game 2 of the President's Cup shifts to the Ynares Sports Arena. The winner of the series will then get to face the reigning CESAFI champions University of the Visayas Green Lancers in the knockout finals. – Rappler.com