UAAP: UP hero Cagulangan repays coach’s trust with championship-winning shot

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 13 2022 10:33 PM | Updated as of May 16 2022 04:52 PM

UP's JD Cagulangan UAAP Media.
UP's JD Cagulangan scores the three-point shot that won the UAAP Season 84 championship for the Fighting Maroons. UAAP Media.

MANILA, Philippines -- JD Cagulangan's performance in overtime was a response to a message from his head coach.

The University of the Philippines were down by five points, 69-64, to the Ateneo de Manila University in overtime of Game 3 of the UAAP Season 84 Finals, and all signs pointed to another championship for the Blue Eagles with 1:47 to go.

But Cagulangan had other plans. His off-balance, shot-clock beating three-pointer made it a one-possession game with 1:24 to go. He then ran a perfect two-man game with Malick Diouf, leading to a slam dunk for the Senegalese center that tied the game at 69 with 39.7 seconds left.

And with time running down, Cagulangan knocked down the step-back three-pointer that won the game for UP -- and ended 36 years of futility in the UAAP for the Fighting Maroons.

"Sarap mag-champion. Sarap mag-champion," Cagulangan said after the game, where he finished with 13 points, five rebounds, and four assists in 37 minutes.

For most of the game, Cagulangan had been out-played by Ateneo's senior point guard, SJ Belangel. But he showed no fear of the moment and responded by taking charge in the closing minutes -- just as UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde challenged him to do.

"Sinabi sa akin ni Coach Gold, kunin mo na, ano pa ba gusto mo? 'Di kinuha ko na. 'Di ba," a beaming Cagulangan said.

"Sobrang laki ng tiwala sa akin ni coach. Lagi niyang sinasabi, 'wag kang bibitaw, 'wag kang bibitaw. Sobrang sarap, thank you Coach Gold. Sobrang thank you," he added.

Cagulangan was grateful that his coach continued to put his trust in him, even though he was not at his best in Game 3. He pointed out that he struggled from the field, making just four of his 12 shots including just two of six three-pointers.

But those two three-pointers came just when UP needed them most, and Cagulangan never lost faith that he would be able to make them.

"Thank God, pumasok," he said of his off-balance triple that cut Ateneo's lead to two points. "Kumbaga, nabuhay kami doon."

"Sa mga ganoong sitwasyon, sinanay kami nila coach na kahit anong mangyari, kahit sobrang malaki na 'yung lamang ng kalaban, laban pa rin," he added.

For Cagulangan, this championship was especially sweet given the road he took to get to UP. A highly-touted rookie coming out of La Salle Greenhills in high school, Cagulangan's collegiate career got off to a rocky start.

Committing to De La Salle University, he would be sparingly used in Season 82, playing a combined 34 minutes over four games. He transferred to UP in January 2020, and soon solidified his role in Monteverde's starting unit.

Cagulangan started all 14 games in the elimination round, averaging 5.36 points, 5.29 assists, and 3.86 rebounds per game.

"Sobrang sarap," he said of becoming a champion. "Champion na kami."

"Lagi lang akong nire-remind ni coach -- 'wag kang bibitaw, kailangan ka sa loob. Lahat ng teammates ko, hindi naman sila nagkulang na pagsabihan kami. Lahat kami, 'yun 'yung nagpabuhay sa amin, 'yung hindi bibitaw, tapos 'yung depensa," he said.

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