How UP's Rob Ricafort won twice in one game
MANILA, Philippines – Everyone, including UP coach Bo Perasol, had a hint of what would happen with the Maroons against the undefeated defending champion DLSU Green Archers. The expectations were set and only reality was left to hit so people could move on.
Judging by the first quarter alone, it looked like business as usual. All-around monster Ben Mbala was doing his best Steph Curry impersonation and drained 4 of his first 5 threes as the Maroons scrambled to recover. After one, it was 27-18 for the champs.
Then in quarter number two, jersey number two for UP finally came out of the warmup covering. Behind a standing ovation from the packed lower boxes, Rob Ricafort entered a UAAP court for the first time.
Then the magic began. Captain Paul Desiderio started to heat up. Rookie point guard Jun Manzo started to score. Even backup guard Diego Dario went on the board. In a flash, UP seized the game back from La Salle on the back of a 29-16 quarter, entering intermission with an improbable 47-43 lead.
But perhaps more significantly for the UP fans, it was Ricafort who punctuated the first half off a reverse lay-in – his first points in the league he has dreamed of joining for so long.
The Paul Desiderio show officially got underway, also known as the third quarter. After scoring a blitzing 16 points in the third in his last game against UE, the King Maroon once again lit up from downtown, draining 4 shots from the perimeter en route to a 13-point third period. However, Mbala had 11 points of his own in the same period as UP clung to a single mark, 66-65, entering the final 10 minutes.
For the longest time, a close game with UP often ended in heartbreak. However, as key players like Manzo and Janjan Jaboneta sank more wide-open treys, it became clearer that all prior expectations have been shattered. As Juan Gomez de Liano converted an open, albeit unsportsmanlike layup with the game already decided, the Maroons completed an 11-point upset over the stunned Green Archers, 98-87.
Emotions ran high, but none more so than Ricafort, who finally had his first UAAP game in the history books. No age restrictions could ever take that fact away from him now.
“I was so happy, I don’t even have the right word to give you,” said the 24-year old. “When I step on the court, I just try to bring the energy, I try to motivate everybody, especially when we’re going down. I have to tell everybody that we still got this.”
“I guess I feel lucky too when I step on the court,” he said between laughs. “Every time I’m in there, Paul starts shooting lights out.”
After securing a temporary restraining order that allowed him to play, Ricafort knew that he already won before the game started. Little did he know that he was on his way to winning one more time.
Rob Ricafort, who battled all his life against all manner of adversity - including a drug habit he kicked in rehab - was at last on the right path. – Rappler.com