MANILA, Philippines – After the crucial 76-70 finals win by the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles against defending champion De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers, the Nieto twins gave new meaning to the saying "blood is thicker than water."
Everyone expected a heated contest between the two rival schools on Saturday night, November 25, the first game of their finals rematch.
However, late in the second quarter, things turned a tad too heated when eagle-eyed shooter Matt Nieto took an accidental elbow above his left eye by the imposing two-time MVP Ben Mbala during a routine spin in the post.
Nieto went down hard and started spurting blood from the point of impact. He had to be taken to the locker room for immediate treatment.
From the sidelines, brother Mike saw everything. As his twin bro Matt crashed down and bled on the floor, Mike could be seen jumping repeatedly in protest of the blocking foul called against him. Little did La Salle know that Mike was already plotting to get even with them.
No punches nor elbows were thrown back from the Eagles. Instead, Mike completely took over in the second half, scoring all 11 of his points (7 in the 4th with a series of drives and post plays). The damage wasn't eye-popping, but it was done nonetheless.
Ateneo was able to keep their rivals' "Mayhem" at bay and hold on for the huge 1-0 advantage in the best-of-3 series. Incidentally, Matt twinned his twin's total with 11 points of his own.
After the game, Mike voiced his thoughts on the incident that fueled his game.
"Nung nasiko [si Matt] ni Ben, kung makikita 'nyo sa video, I threw the towel on the floor kasi parang nasaktan din ako nung natamaan si Matt,” he said. "Kasi I don't really want to see my brother down. Especially when I saw the blood falling down from his eyes, parang lalo akong na-motivate eh.”
(When Ben elbowed Matt, if you can see in the video, I threw the towel on the floor because I felt that I also got hurt when Matt got hit. Because I don't really want to see my brother down. Especially when I saw the blood falling down from his eyes, it's like I got motivated even more.)
"I don't wanna retaliate by hurting La Salle physically by punching them – no," he added. "I just wanted to win the game."
Matt, meanwhile, was just all business. "I really wanted to get [Ben's] spin because I'm gonna sacrifice even my face, even my body just to get that possession. That possession will win us the game," he said.
Most importantly, both Nietos and Mbala came to a consensus that the elbow was unintentional. "It's part of basketball," said the Cameroonian big man, who was held to a UAAP career-low 8 points on just 3/7 shooting. "I had the ball, I spinned. [Matt] was late on the rotation on the double [team], that’s why he got hit. I didn't intend to hit him or hurt him."
With Ateneo on the verge of avenging last year's campaign with a championship win of their own, expect that the physicality would only trend up on Wednesday's Game 2 at the Araneta Coliseum. Hopefully though, no more blood would be shed in the process. – Rappler.com