Veteran big man Prince Rivero displayed his sharp form of old on Wednesday night when he played a key role in La Salle’s hard-earned 84-78 victory over University of the East to sustain its unbeaten start in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Not utilized in the first half, the 6-foot-4 Rivero showed he’s always ready to answer the call as he served as the Green Archers’ another solid presence down low after the turn, banging in all of his 11 points while hauling down eight rebounds and issuing two assists in 10 very solid minutes of play.
Rivero’s exploits, coupled with gunner Andrei Caracut’s timely explosion, couldn’t come at a more opportune for La Salle, which played without ejected coach Aldin Ayo in the second half.
With the duo stepping up, the Green Archers still managed to fend off a tough challenge from the Red Warriors and extended their winning start to six straight, moving a win shy of completing a seven-game sweep in the first round of eliminations.
While he was reduced to a mere cheerleader in most of their previous wins, Rivero admitted he hasn’t lost any confidence.
“I am the type of person who’s not gonna quit,” the third-year big man told sports scribes. “It doesn’t matter if I don’t get the playing time. It’s a team (effort). Kasama naman ako sa team, so I’m part of the winning team.”
“Wala akong problema kung wala akong playing time. I’m still working with them in practice. I help them improve and they help me improve. And then out of practice, we all still do extra workout. It doesn’t change anything.”
While most of UE’s defensive attention was focused on prized La Salle import Ben Mbala, who still came through with his sixth straight double-double of 19 points ad 17 rebounds, Rivero made the Red Warriors pay for not putting a body on him in the lane, aggressively crashing the boards that enabled him to corral four offensive rebounds.
Although he showed that he still has what it takes despite being slowed down by injuries in the off-season, Rivero admitted he still has to strive further in order to crack the Green Archers’ regular rotation.
“Thankful ako na kahit paano, nabigyan ako ng chance. But still, it doesn’t change anything, I’m still gonna work hard for everything,” he stressed, adding all of the Green Archers are giving it their all to thrive under Ayo’s system.
“‘Yung system kasi na nabuo namin, hindi sya pang-sarili lang, but to help each other out. Kung nahihirapan ka man or nasa top ka ng career mo, it’s to help each other out,” Rivero explained. – By Jerome Lagunzad