No shortage of heroes in Fighting Maroons’ heart-stopping finals win

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 13 2022 09:54 PM | Updated as of May 14 2022 12:12 AM

To beat the defending champions ABS-CBN News
To beat the defending champions, University of the Philippines needed everybody on its squad to be on their A-game. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

To beat the defending champions, University of the Philippines needed everybody on its squad to be on their A-game.

And whoever coach Goldwin Monteverde tapped – whether he was a starter or coming off the bench – they delivered as the Fighting Maroons downed the Ateneo Blue Eagles 72-69 in overtime on Friday for their first UAAP championship since 1986.

Whether it was Malick Diouf starting out strong, CJ Cansino hitting clutch 3-pointers in the second half, or Joel Cagulangan coming up huge in the extra 5 minutes, UP threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Ateneo juggernaut to ascend the UAAP throne.

Diouf, a transferee from Centro Escolar University, started things off by scoring nine points in the first quarter as UP put up a 17-11 lead.

To start the second quarter, Cansino, coming off a knee injury, made his first basket in these finals – a 3-pointer.

In the third, Cansino continued to prove why he was a valuable addition to the squad from UST, hitting a pair from long distance as the game went back and forth.

His biggest shot came late in the fourth quarter, where he drained a 3 with 47 seconds left to essentially send the game to overtime.

That's where Cagulangan shone the brightest.

With UP behind 69-64 at the 1:47 mark of the extension and his squad's title hopes fading, the guard who couldn't crack the rotation when he played for La Salle had a scoring sequence that went this way – transition basket, 3-pointer, assist to Diouf, and the game-winning triple.

Diouf, the finals MVP, finished with 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals; Cansino chipped in 14 points and 4 3-pointers in 12 minutes; and Cagulangan added 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

Besides, the team's "Big 3" this game, others on the Fighting Maroons made significant contributions, from James Spencer helping Diouf to start the game, Ricci Rivero making key baskets, Carl Tamayo holding his own in the paint, and Harold Alarcon showing nerves of steel on both ends of the floor.

After the game, Cansino, who missed the first two games of the finals as he nursed an injury, said it was difficult not to be on the basketball court seeing how his teammates and coaches ready to give a part of themselves to a bigger cause.

“ ’Yung gabi na natalo kami, inisip ko lang, ano ba isa-sacrifice ko? Yung sarili ko or yung team? Wala na, hindi na ko nagdalawang isip. Kung anuman mangyari sa career ko, anuman mangyari sa injury ko, di ko na papabayaan teammates ko,” he revealed.

“Di ko papabayaan ang UP community, ang coaches kasi grabe sila magtrabaho e.”