WITH the final seconds ticking away in the first half and La Salle slowly regaining momentum, Kib Montalbo stood in the face of Ateneo star Thirdy Ravena, never giving an inch.
The incident led to a little shoving and pushing, and though the Green Archers were still down by nine at that point, Montalbo succeeded in getting the message across: Things are about to get tougher in the second half.
The game took sharp momentum from there as the re-energized Green Archers dominated the rest of the way to pull off a 92-83 comeback victory and send the UAAP Season 80 Finals to a deciding game.
Again, it was nothing personal for the proud son of Bacolod, who insisted he was merely leading by example.
“As a captain of this team, it all starts with me. If I play tough, they’re gonna play tough," said Montalbo. "There was no foul, I was just standing there, it’s just basketball. Si Thirdy, we’re friends.
“I think we needed that, we needed to wake up. We were down by 20, inch by inch, possession by possession, we were gonna get there,” he added.
With the Green Archers fighting for their lives and down 21 early, Montalbo’s faith never wavered. The most seasoned among the Archers said it was up to him to lead his squad out of the hole.
“I looked at their faces and they were down. Not to brag about it, sabi ko sa kanila, 'I’ve been in this position nung 2013,' we we’re down 1-0 and yung odds nasa kanila talaga. What I wanted them to do was to believe and want it more,” Montalbo said.
“Pumasok 'yun sa isip nila that’s why we got this win. I just told them to never give up. Whatever the circumstances na bibigay sa ’tin, down 20, down 30, just stick it out as a team,” he added.
Playing the second most minutes behind Mbala, Montalbo finished with nine points, five assists and three steals. But his biggest impact was on the defensive end, limiting Ateneo star Matt Nieto to just 10 points on 4-14 shooting.
He simply wasn't ready to pack it up.
“We worked for 10, 11 months for this tapos tatapon lang namin? No way. We’ll fight till the end,” said Montalbo. “Hopefully we can ride the momentum going to Game Three.”