Joel Cagulangan raised his fists in great joy as soon as he unleashed the winning triple with a second left as members of the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons strutted around the court, celebrating like crazy as they fulfilled their drought-ending dreams on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Fighting Maroons hit the right note on defense in the final minutes and got two big baskets from the 5’9” Cagulangan as they prevailed over the “four-peat-seeking” Ateneo Blue Eagles, 72-69, in overtime in Game 3 of the 84th University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball finals.
Big man and Finals’ MVP Malick Diouf sank 17 points and took charge under the glass with nine rebounds, his big effort leading the Maroons to their first cage plum in 36 years.
Cagulangan finished with 13 points, five rebounds and two triples for UP.
“Sobrang sarap, wala akong masabi. Champion na kami. Sobrang sarap talaga,” said Cagulangan, a native of Butuan.
CJ Cansino, who missed the first two games of the finals due to a foot injury, had 14 points.
It was a great feat for UP coach Goldwin Monteverde as the Maroons finished their best-of-three finals series at 2-1, which is quite an achievement in his first year as a collegiate coach.
Monteverde is the second coach to steer UP to a crown since Joe Lipa first did it in 1986.
“I feel very happy right now,” said the soft-spoken first-year head coach of the Fighting Maroons Goldwin Monteverde. “I want to thank the UP community. I also want to thank the Lord God for this championship.”
Hugs and kisses greeted Monteverde moments after Cagulangan, a recruit from NCAA junior champion La Salle Greenhills, unleashed the second of his two treys in the extension period from the left corner with 1.6 seconds remaining for the final count.
“He (Cagulangan) knows that the entire team really trusts him. At that given moment, he knew the situation, we never had any doubt about him and he did it,” said Monteverde.
This is UP’s third title in the league, winning their first title all the way back to the second season of the league and following it up 47 years later during season 49.
Defense on Season 84 MVP Angelo Kouame appeared shaky as he was always finding a way to get past Diuof, but Cagulangan proved to be UP’s lethal weapon in the final minutes.
The Blue Eagles, who were denied a four-peat, held the lead for the last time off Gian Mamuyac’s three, 69-64, with 1:47.
With Diouf missing his shot in the next play from up close, Cagulangan got a pass from him and hit a triple, which allowed UP to come close, 67-69, in the last 1:12.
After Blue Eagle SJ Belangel bungled an attempt, a well-defended Cagulangan fed the ball to Diouf, who connected with a dunk in the 39.7 second mark, to tie the match, 69-all.
Cagulangan’s chance to win the game for UP with his trey came after Ateneo’s Dave Ildefonso bungled an attempt with 20 ticks to go.
The Fighting Maroons, who played above their average of 73.5 points per game, forced a 59-all deadlock and sent the match into overtime after Cansino knocked in a three-pointer with 47.8 ticks left in regulation.
Ateneo had chances to win, but Belangel was forced to a turnover, and missed an attempt in the final three seconds of the remaining time in regulation.