There was clear tension in the audience when the De La Salle University Green Archers took on the Gilas Pilipinas cadets on Friday evening in the 2018 Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup, presented by Chooks-to-Go.
For the first time, the Green Archers were facing their former brother-in-arms Ricci Rivero, who left La Salle last April 5.
During the entire course of the contest, third-year guard Aljun Melecio hounded Rivero over the entire length of the floor, while newcomers like Niel Tolentino and Miggy Corteza also had their shot of defending the UAAP Season 80 Men’s Basketball Most Improved Player. Rivero ended the night with just six points on 2-of-8 shooting and four turnovers.
It seemed at first that Rivero would have the last laugh, as the Cadets had a strong start, leading by as much as 20 points in the first half. But behind the leadership of Kib Montalbo, the Green Archers slowly sliced the lead before taking a dominant 91-72 win.
For first-year head coach Louie Gonzalez, the game itself had no other implications. The only motivation they had was how they could compete with Philippine collegiate basketball’s finest.
“Malaking opportunity kasi talaga ito, malaking test yang National Team. Whatever you say thats the best of the best e,” shared Gonzalez.
“Magandang opportunity for a young team like us na makipag-compete sa kanila.”
This sentiment was echoed by skipper Montalbo. The Green Archer was all over the place in the contest, finishing with 25 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and five steals. Moreover, it was Montalbo’s three straight triples that capped La Salle’s furious 20-1 run that baffled the Cadets.
“We’re friends outside of the court,” Montalbo said about Rivero. “But kahit sino kalaban namin, what we need to do in the court is play La Salle basketball.
“Kahit Team USA pa yan, dapat mindset is La Salle basketball.”
The only motivation Montalbo and the Green Archers had for the contest was each other.
“Mino-motivate din kasi ako ng teammates ko e. I see them fighting everyday sa practice.”