MANILA, Philippines – If the new-look La Salle Green Archers aimed to surprise Ateneo in their opening game, the defending champions had more unexpected tricks up their sleeves.
Ateneo team captain Mike Nieto and fourth-year guard Gian Mamuyac lived up to the team's "next man up" mentality with breakout performances to lead the Blue Eagles over archrival La Salle, 81-69, on Sunday, September 8 at the Araneta Coliseum.
Nieto – taking the scoring load from team stars Thirdy Ravena and Angelo Kouame – erupted for 18 points off a 7-of-11 clip from the field, while Mamuyac also took control of Ateneo's offense in the second half, tallying 14 points in the game.
"Well, of course, I think this shows the culture of our team. Next man up was also our mantra last year," said Nieto.
"'Yung sinasabi nga ni coach Tab (Baldwin) na the first to the 16th man namin, kailangan palaging present. I think this showed kanina, yung depth ng team namin."
(Coach Tab did say that our first to the 16th man has to always be present. I think our depth showed a while ago.)
Despite suffering from a bad cold, Mamuyac stepped up for injured Adrian Wong to help deny a La Salle comeback in the second half. He also proved to be a key cog defensively as the Blue Eagles held the Green Archers scoreless in the last 4 minutes of the 2nd quarter.
Although Ateneo secured a second straight win, La Salle still revealed a lot of points for improvement for the defending champion.
"One thing na na-highlight lang is siguro we have to sustain the pressure… especially nung 3rd quarter. We didn’t start the 3rd quarter well so I think that’s one thing to work on," said Mamuyac.
(One thing that got highlighted was the need to sustain the pressure, especialy in the 3rd quarter. We didn't start the 3rd quarter well, so I think that's one thing to work on.)
The Blue Eagles look to avoid the same mistakes as they face the streaking University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers on Wednesday, September 11, 10:30 am at the Araneta Coliseum. – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.