By Jerome Lagunzad
It was a valuable lesson, not a painful loss.
That’s how Ricci Rivero and the rest of his La Salle teammates are putting things in perspective after seeing their title reign came to an end at the hands of bitter rival Ateneo over the weekend in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament.
The 6-foot-2 Rivero broke down in tears along with his fellow Green Archers after the Blue Eagles proved steadier down the stretch to eke out a close 88-86 victory in their winner-take-all match witnessed by more than 22,000 fans inside the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“Ginawa namin ‘yung part namin during the game pero nagkulang kami throughout the process. Siguro may something na nag-lack and dapat may ginawa kami,” said the high-flying wingman who accounted for 14 points and seven rebounds but turned the ball over seven times in their Game 3 loss.
Still, Rivero, considered by many as the future star of powerhouse La Salle, is confident that the Green Archers will come out better from the team’s setback. “Dahil natalo kami, titignan namin ‘yung mga pagkakamali namin throughout the process at pipilitin namin itama,” he said.
Even reigning two-time league MVP Ben Mbala is also taking the bitter loss in stride.
“It has to be a learning experience for me. You can’t just learn by winning, you can also learn by losing. This is a situation that you have to learn by losing and I take it as a man,” said the ultra athletic Cameroonian center.
“It’s a game after all, just not because it’s Ateneo or La Salle you have to hate each other. After the game, we still have our lives and we have to keep going on with our lives.”
Ayo is confident that all his players will come out as better players.
“I always tell them to absorb everything and make sure na naintindihan nila,” he said.
Spitfire guard Aljun Melecio added he and the Green Archers now have more reasons to buckle down to work as they try to foil the Blue Eagles’ back-to-back bid and claim the coveted crown.
“Ayaw ko talaga ang natatalo. Ginawa ko naman lahat, pero na-short. Bawi na lang next season,” he said, sounding confident that their intact unit will continue to be a handful for their rivals.