The long wait is finally over for the University of the Philippines (UP). Joel Cagulangan nailed the title-clinching shot as the Fighting Maroons completed a cardiac 72-69 overtime win over Ateneo de Manila University at the jampacked Mall of Asia Arena Friday night in Pasay City.
It was a dramatic ending to the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball finals which the Blue Eagles were favored to dominate.
But the Maroons had other things in mind, relying on the fearless crew of Cagulangan, CJ Cansino, Ricci Rivero and Malick Diouf to end a 36-year title drought.
UP last won the title in 1986 under coach Joe Lipa and the legendary pair of Ronald Magsanoc and Benjie Paras.
Ateneo blew two chances to win the match.
The Eagles were up, 59-56, with 48 seconds left when CJ Cansino buried a top-of-the-key bomb to tie the game.
Both teams failed to score after that, forcing a five-minute extension.
In overtime, Ateneo again nursed a 69-64 lead with 1:47 to go, but again the Maroons could not be denied.
Cagulangan hit a three-point shot and Maodo Diouf completed a two-handed slam with 39 seconds left.
After Dave Ildefonso muffed a floater in the return play, the Maroons got a chance to set the final play with 10 seconds remaining.
Cagulangan took the inbound pass, milked the clock down to five seconds before taking a pick from Diouf from the top of the key to brush off defender Gian Mamuyac.
Left free after Ateneo’s Ange Kouame pedaled back after the switch, Cagulangan fired the shot that rocked the arena with half-a-second remaining.
“It really feels so good, I don’t know what to say, now I’m a champion,” said the five-foot-nine Cagulangan who finished with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
“Our coaches just told us to never give up, whatever happens.”
The win gave coach UP coach Goldwin Monteverde the crown on his first try. He took over the rein from Bo Perasol last year.
Diouf led the Maroons with 17 points, nine boards and three steals in 40 minutes of action. He was named Finals Most Valuable Player.
Cansino also made a surprise comeback and added 14 points on sizzling 4-of-7 three-point shooting while veteran Rivero and Harold Alarcon combined for 17 points.
Cagulangan thanked his teammates for trusting him with the ball in the final play.
“Even though I had a very low shooting percentage, they really trusted me at that moment. That’s the most important thing for me,” he said.
UP showed it has the bigger heart in the most crucial stretch after Ildefonso muffed a floater, allowing Cagulangan to calmly sink the winning shot with 0.5 second remaining.
Ateneo’s SJ Belangel led all scorers with 27 points and four assists, but it was not enough as the Tab Baldwin-mentored squad saw its dominant run come to an end.
Season MVP Ange Kouame also added 12 markers and 14 boards while Mamuyac ended his collegiate career with 10 points and six boards.
UP 72 — Diouf 17, Cansino 14, Cagulangan 13, Rivero 9, Alarcon 8, Tamayo 6, Spencer 3, Lucero 0, Abadiano 0, Fortea 0.
ATENEO 69 — Belangel 27, Kouame 12, Mamuyac 10, Koon 6, Verano 5, Ildefonso 2, Tio 2, Andrade 0, Daves 0, Chiu 0.
Quarters: 17-11, 31-27, 46-47, 59-59, 72-69.