BY being humble enough to know that he’s not bigger than his team, newly-crowned MVP Kevin Quiambao has just helped save La Salle’s season.

In a strategic move, Topex Robinson moved Quiambao to an off-the-bench role and La Salle's best player embraced the switch - a gambit that paid off in the form of an 82-60 win over the University of the Philippines in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 86 finals.

It was a crucial adjustment that allowed the Green Archers to move one win away from claiming the UAAP championship this Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum – the closest they’ve been to the big one since 2017.

READ 'Team player' Escandor becomes unlikely X-Factor for La Salle

The victory marked Robinson’s first in the finals of any major collegiate league – having lost six games in his past three appearances in the NCAA with San Sebastian and Lyceum before dropping the first game against the Fighting Maroons.

"It’s always gonna be there, there’s always gonna be thoughts in your head of things to come pero sabi ko nga I have to let go of that because it’s holding me back also eh," Robinson said when asked about finally getting over the hump.

"What’s important is knowing that I have these guys behind me, giving me that courage to keep on coaching them and leading them. Yun lang naman ang mahalaga sa 'kin eh, alam mong meron kang sasandalan when the going gets tough."

PHOTO: Patrick Romero

Quiambao’s transition from a star player to a bench role proved crucial in the team’s success, his readiness to embrace the challenge and provide energy off the bench manifesting his team-oriented approach.

Coming off the bench, Quiambao’s impact was felt on both ends of the court, particularly in anchoring the defense with three blocks and 13 boards.

Robinson couldn’t be any more grateful to have a star player with Quiambao’s mentality to make the gambit work.

"We wanted to make sure that we’re gonna have at least a back-up with our starters. Whatever happens, we’ll have somebody who’ll come off the bench and provide [energy], and KQ was ready for the challenge," he said.

"Sabi nga  niya kung ano man ang gusto ng coaching staff, susunod lang siya and he gave us an extra boost after our starters."  

Ego out the window for Quiambao

As part of a winning program since his high school days, Quiambao knew that certain sacrifices would have to be made to turn things around.

"It starts sa sarili ko na binaba ko talaga yung ego ko. At yun nga, yung trust na sinasabi niya na tiwala lang ako sa kung anong binibigay ni coach Topex sa 'kin. At kung ano ang maging effective para sa 'min gagawin ko lang," he said.

"Di ko naman kailangan pumuntos sa ngayong game eh, kailangan ko lang maging effective off ball. Pinakita ko lang kung ano yung pwede maging resulta pag binaba ang ego mo."

Quiambao’s presence in the second unit made life easier for shock troopers like Joshua David and CJ Austria.  who combined for 23 points off the bench to support the red-hot Francis Escandor.

PHOTO: Sherwin Vardeleon

Together, the trio shot an eye-popping 10-16 from beyond the arc.

As La Salle prepares for the winner-take-all Game 3, Robinson takes pride in the trust and relationships built within the team.

Quiambao’s acceptance of his bench role exemplifies the team’s belief in the coach’s decisions, creating a strong foundation for the winner-take-all match on Wednesday.

"You mentioned relationships, that’s where trust happens. It’s gonna take a while before it blooms, and now, you see that your MVP is accepting the fact that he’s gonna come off the bench.  So that’s where, I  would say, the epitome of leading this team is knowing that they believe in what you do," Robinson said.

"They don’t have any questions when we say, ‘you’re not gonna start,’ no questions. Ganun ka-simple. You don’t have to worry about their reaction, as in go lang coach, kung ano gusto mong gawin, susunod lang kami sa 'yo."

2023-12-04T08:13:22Z dg43tfdfdgfd