MANILA, Philippines — JD Cagulangan missed his first four three-points shots in the winner-take-all Game 3, but he delivered the two most important treys for University of the Philippines when it mattered most.
His clutch heroics ended the Fighting Maroons’ 36-year-title drought, capping off an epic 72-69 overtime win over Ateneo in the UAAP men’s basketball on Friday at Mall of Asia Arena.
In the final seconds of arguably one of the most epic UAAP Finals game in history in front of the 15, 132 fans, Cagulangan immortalized himself as Diliman’s hero, executing a lethal step back three that ended Ateneo’s three-season reign and brought back the glory to UP for the first time since 1986 — a year he wasn’t born yet.
The 5-foot-9 court general, who shot 4-of-12 from the field, said it was a shot built on coach Goldwin Monteverde’s trust.
“Sobrang sarap talaga wala akong masabi. Champion na kami. Lagi akong nireremind ni coach wag kang bibitaw, kailangan ka sa loob,” said Cagulangan. “Lahat ng teammates ko hindi naman sila nagkulang na pagsabihan kami. Lahat kami yun yung nagpapabuhay sa amin: yung hindi bibitaw tapos yung depensa.”
[It feels good. I’m speechless that we’re champions now. Coach and my teammates always remind me to never give up, they need me inside. That’s what kept us alive this season: to never give up and our defense.]
“Kung titignan mo yung percentage ng mga tira ko sobrang lala pero kahit sobrang baba ng percentage andoon pa rin yung tiwala nila coach sa akin. Yun yung pinakamagandang nangyari sa amin,” he added.
[I shot poorly. If you look at my shooting percentage, it’s really bad, but coach still trusted me. That was the best thing that happened for us.]
Monteverde, the man behind UP’s pesky defense and never-say-die attitude that beat Ateneo thrice this season, was hardly surprise after Cagulangan hit the most important shots in history of their school’s basketball program.
“Knowing JD since high school, he really had that. He knows that the team believes in him. I had no doubt that he can take that shot which he did,” said Monteverde, who outdueled Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin.
When Ateneo stretched its lead to 69-64 off Gian Mamuyac’s triple in the final 1:47 of the extra regulation, the transferee guard from La Salle fought hard to grab an offensive rebound and beat the shot clock with a tough triple to cut down the deficit to two, before Malick Diouf slashed his way for a two-handed slam to tie the game at 69 with 39.7 seconds left.
“Patapos na rin kasi yung shot clock nung tinira ko pero thank God pumasok. Kumbaga nabuhay kami doon. Sa mga ganoong sitwasyon ba sinanay kami nila coach kahit anong mangyari kahit sobrang malaki na yung lamang ng kalaban, laban pa rin,” Cagulangan said.
[The shot clock was about to expire so I had to take it. Thank God it went in. That kept us in the game. Coach shaped us up for those kinds of situations not to give up whatever happens even we’re trailing big.]
Cagulangan still can’t believe it after immortalizing himself as the Fighting Maroons’ hero, who ended the school’s three-decade UAAP drought.
But one thing is for sure, that epic three-point shot is for the whole UP community.
“Hindi ako makapaniwala. [I can’t believe it]. I’m thankful to the UP community. They supported us and gave us food (even we’re in a bubble),”he said.
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