The DLSU Green Archers and ADMU Blue Eagles once again gave it their all in the second game of the best-of-three Finals yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. While the team from Katipunan fought to earn their first championship in five years, the team from Taft extended the series as they try to defend the crown and garner a back-to-back championship.
Green Archers Ben Mbala, Ricci Rivero, and Andrei Caracut led the way for La Salle on both ends of the court. Mbala added 20 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks, while Ri. Rivero fought through his foul trouble, as he chipped in 18 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Also, Caracut stood out in this do-or-die game with 13 points as he was key in the Green Archers’ win.
While he did not score much on the offensive end, it was the team’s captain, Kib Montalbo, who continued to lead DLSU’s fight to stay in the ballgame. As Ateneo was on the verge of claiming Game 2 and winning the championship, Montalbo’s fighting spirit shined the brightest when La Salle needed it the most. While many in the crowd and team seemed dejected looking at the lead, Montalbo never stopped believing that his team could come back.
“Actually, as the captain of this team, it all starts with me. If I play tough, they’re going to play tough,” said Montalbo.
When the intense atmosphere was most palpable and the pressure was inevitable, Montalbo continuously communicated with his teammates. He shared, “I saw all their faces and they were down, not to brag about it, sabi ko sa kanila, [in the past,] I’ve been in this position already for the team, we were down 1-0, sabi ko, the odds will be in favor of Ateneo talaga, what I want them to do is to believe and want it more.”
To their dismay, the first quarter did not go in favor of DLSU, when Ateneo seized their biggest lead of the game, 21 points. As ADMU successfully converted basket after basket, Montalbo continuously raised phrases that he hoped would push his teammates to get up and work harder for the win.
Montalbo exclaimed, “Gising, gising, we need to wake up, we were down by 21, just never give up, inch by inch, possession by possession, execute, defend, get stops, we’re gonna get there, we can make it.”
When the team was down by 21, however, the possibility of losing the crown creeped into their minds. Their captain couldn’t help but ponder on all the trials and tribulations the team had gone through before they got to where they stood at that very moment.
“We’ve worked hard for about 10 to 11 months for this, tapos itatapon lang namin? No way, we’re going to fight ‘til the end, I don’t want to see it all go to waste,” explained Montalbo.
After the game, the Green Archer stated, “I don’t know, hopefully napasok nila sa isip nila yung sinabi ko that’s why we got this win. I just told them na never give up, whatever the circumstances na ibibigay sa atin, down by 20, down by 30, just stick to the rest of the team.”
The team captain shared that head coach Aldin Ayo said that the team needed to handle the victory well and hopefully, they could ride the momentum going into Game 3. With his head held high, Montalbo ended with a resolve that the final battle would be a memorable game indeed.
“Rest and recover our bodies, back to work tomorrow, practice again tomorrow and we’re gonna give it our all this Sunday. It’s the last game, for sure they’re going to give it their all din. It’s gonna be one hell of a match-up,” Montalbo concluded.