La Salle's Arnold Van Opstal (L) goes to the basket against former teammate Alfonso Gotladera. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Teammate Kiefer Ravena said he was "inspired," and coach Bo Perasol mused that he may have a "personal agenda," but Ateneo center Alfonso Gotladera only wanted to win against the De La Salle Green Archers.
Gotladera played two seasons for La Salle, but was mostly a bench-warmer. He only saw action for 13 games, and scored a grand total of two points in two seasons with the Green Archers.
He eventually transferred to Ateneo, and after serving his residency, has been a reliable option for the Blue Eagles in their first two games of the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament.
Gotladera had the best game of his UAAP career against his former team, as he scored 17 points to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks in Ateneo's 97-86 victory over La Salle on Sunday. He was named Player of the Game and called the "Golden Boy" by his head coach.
"Ibang-iba talaga siguro 'yung motivation ni Ponso," said Perasol after the game. "Coming from La Salle, siyempre, in a way, meron siya sigurong personal agenda. Gusto niya na ipakita rin na, hindi naman sa nagkamali kayo, pero in a way, sinasabi niya na 'I am better than what you were thinking about me.'"
Ravena, who torched La Salle for 29 points, said: "Grabe, inspired. Inspired si Ponso. Hindi ko alam kung bakit."
The soft-spoken Gotladera, however, denied he has a personal agenda.
"Coming into this game, I just wanted to contain Arnold (Van Opstal), sila Norbert (Torres)," he said. "Wala naman talagang agenda. We just wanted to win as a team, and grateful lang din kami na nakuha namin ito."
Gotladera did admit that his familiarity with Van Opstal and Torres – his two former teammates – was a great advantage for him. "I kinda knew their tendencies already," he said.
Both Van Opstal and Torres had relatively quiet games -- Van Opstal had 10 points and nine rebounds but didn't hit a field goal until the second half, while Torres finished with eight points and three boards.
"If we can have him playing like that every game, every single time, it's a good plus for us," Ravena said of Gotladera's performance against La Salle.
Gotladera said that while his La Sallian friends did wish him luck, he honestly did not know what to expect from the 17,000-strong crowd who watched the game.
"Kasi hindi siya naglalaro dati, kaya hindi niya alam," interjected Perasol, to laughter.
This time, he played for 31 minutes and made the most of his playing time, especially in the final quarter when the Green Archers resulted to deliberately fouling him to stop the clock.
"We wanted to stop the clock and we couldn't afford having Ravena again shooting jump shots," La Salle coach Juno Sauler said of their "Hack-a-Ponso" tactic. "It was a gamble on our part. It was the coaches' decision to foul Gotladera and stop the clock, and hope that he will miss free throws and hope we can score on the offensive end."
The tactic mostly backfired on La Salle, as Gotladera made four of eight free throw attempts before Perasol started subbing him in and out of the game in the final two minutes along with guard Nico Elorde.
"Yun ang pinaka-matagal na two minutes na naramdaman ko sa buong basketball career ko," Ravena said of the game's final minutes wherein his teammates kept trooping to the line.
"He has to experience that," Perasol said. "Kasi kung tatanggalin ko siya doon, lahat na lang ng kalaban namin, we will go up against Hack-a-Gotladera."
Gotladera said he felt "challenged" by La Salle's deliberate fouling.
"Medyo nags-struggle ako sa free throws, pero confident naman ako na kaya ko i-shoot," he said.
After showing his worth for the Blue Eagles, Gotladera said he will just continue doing his job in their future games even if he now becomes a target for opposing big men.
"Ang main objective ko naman every game is to get rebounds and stop the big guys of other teams," he said.