MANILA, Philippines – The injury and the illness all resulted to a statistical drop.
But after a quiet second round, Ateneo's Matt Nieto finally flashed his familiar form as the standout playmaker unleashed a career-high 27 points in the Blue Eagles' Game 1 win over the University of the Philippines in the UAAP Season 81 men's basketball finals.
"My number one priority is to lead the team, to be the general inside the court, and I just got my rhythm in the game, and luckily my shots went in,” said Nieto, who returned in the second round after a four week-hiatus due to a finger injury and a bout with dengue.
Nieto highlighted his big game with a 4-of-5 (80%) clip from downtown and 3 steals that reminded fans exactly why he played such a crucial part in the Blue Eagles’ title campaign last season.
Even after a career night, though, the fourth-year Blue Eagle took responsibility for some errors in the Blue Eagles’ offense in the early stages of the game that allowed the Fighting Maroons to rally back and cut it to a one-point game at the half.
“I look to execute well, kaya 'yung first half, ako 'yung pinagalitan, kasi I'm not leading the team the right way, and we're not executing the plays," explained Nieto.
"So I took the blame, so in-improve in the second half, and because of the execution in the second half, they found me open, and luckily my shots talaga went in."
(I look to execute well, that’s why in the first half, I was scolded since I wasn’t leading the team the right way, and we’re not executing the plays. So I took the blame and improved in the second half. Because of the execution in the second half, they found me open, and luckily my shots really went in.)
Nieto, of course, hopes to whip up another big game as the Blue Eagles go for a sweep of the Fighting Maroons in Game 2 of the best-of-three title series on Wednesday, December 5 at 3:30 pm at the Araneta Coliseum. – Jason Santos/Rappler.com