MANILA, Philippines – Before he became a trending topic for his inspirational performance in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 80 Finals, La Salle’s Ricci Rivero first made waves on social media for an entirely different reason.
In the days following La Salle’s 76-70 loss to Ateneo de Manila University in Game 1 of the best-of-three series, videos would circulate showing the Green Archers’ allegedly “dirty” plays against the Blue Eagles.
One of them showed Rivero, La Salle’s sophomore guard, appearing to hit Ateneo veteran Vince Tolentino with a closed fist to the knee after the Blue Eagle attempted a free throw.
The high-leaping guard was roundly criticized on social media. Yet Rivero, who was named the league’s Most Improved Player before Game 2, paid little attention to what critics were saying about him.
“Sinabi ng coaches sa amin na this final stretch, bawasan ang social media,” Rivero explained.
“Ako, lahat ng sinasabi ng coaches ko basta during the season, pinipilit ko talaga na masunod kasi nga, hindi naman ako nagba-basketball para lang sa sarili ko,” he added.
“Tiwala sa akin ang mga coaches ko, so gusto ko naman na parang mag-pay back sa kanila.”
And if Rivero heard or saw those criticisms, he did not let them weigh him down – not during such a crucial part of their season.
“Kung may sinasabi man, parang GV (good vibes) lang, smile na lang,” he said.
“If may negativities, may haters, at least andiyan sila, nasasabi nila sa akin. So alam ko na kung ano ang babaguhin ko,” he added.
Rivero would become a trending topic once more during and after Game 2 – but this time, for a more positive reason. He headed to the La Salle bench in tears during the second quarter, having been called for his fourth foul of the game while the Green Archers were down by double digits.
He returned halfway through the third period and promptly went on a tear. Using his now trademark side-stepping move, Rivero soared his way to 12 points in the second half, helping the Green Archers complete a 92-83 come-from-behind win to tie the Finals series at one game apiece.
Rivero would finish with 18 points, five rebounds, and four assists in just under 24 minutes of action. He was virtually unstoppable, making 8 of his 11 field goals in the game. Most importantly, he finished the contest despite playing with four fouls in the entire second half.
“It wasn’t me who played noong second half. I offered everything talaga kay God,” Rivero said. “Sabi ko, ‘yung mangyayari sa second half, negative man or positive, i-take ko siya as a positive thing. I prayed for it, na God’s will ‘yung mangyari.”
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