The absence of inside operator Inand Fornilos for most the game worried members of the La Salle Greenhills Greenies.
When Fornilos was ejected by disqualification in the last 5:27 of the second period, top scorer Joel Cagulangan felt it was time for him and his teammates to step up in Game 1 of the 93rd National Collegiate Athletic Association junior basketball division finals at the Araneta Coliseum.
So the Greenies fought off the defending champion Malayan High School Red Robins without their most aggressive operator for most of the game.
And still, they came out on top and stopped the Red Robins, 74-68, to move within reach of their first ever title.
“Nag-worry kami sa pagkawala ni Fornilos. Big factor po siya,” said Cagulangan, who was named part of the Mythical 5.
The 17-year old Cagulangan had 17 points with Joshua David, and he also had eight rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
Two of his steals came in the last three minutes, and this decided the outcome of the match.
He first stole off Eric Jabel, and assisted Joshua Marcos for a drive, giving the Greenies a six-point edge, 72-66.
Then, Cagulangan snatched the ball away from Carl Lacap in the next possession.
He then drove in for a quick layup, and handed LSGH an eight-point spread, with 2:12 to go, 74-66.
From there, the Red Robins missed three of four attempts in the remaining time.
“Those are good decision-making skills that helped. I trusted them on their gut feel. If they can go for it, why not?” said LSGH coach Marvin Bienvenida.
The Red Robins finished with season MVP Will Gozum leading with 16 points.
They were behind, 38-43 when Fornilos was slapped with a disqualifying foul which was an allegedly open-fisted jab on Gozum during a rebound play in the last 5:27 of the second period.
CSB-LSGH 74 – Cagulangan 17, David 17, Marcos 15, Fornilos 14, Morales 4, Mosqueda 4, Sangco 3, Lao 0, Perez 0, Dela Cruz 0, Lepalam 0, Cruz 0
MAPUA 68 – Gozum 16, Jabel 13, Escamis 11, Lacap 9, Bonifacio 6, Enriquez 6, Garcia 4, Ramos 3, Arches 0
QUARTER SCORES: 19-20, 33-37, 59-52, 74-68
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