MANILA, Philippines -- When the game was over and they had the chance to catch their breaths, the players of the University of the Philippines repeated a phrase that they believed spurred them to history.
The Fighting Maroons had ended 36 years of basketball futility on Friday night, outlasting the Ateneo de Manila University, 72-69, in an overtime classic in Game 3 of the UAAP Season 84 Finals.
Their hero was JD Cagulangan, who was spectacular down the stretch. The guard orchestrated UP's 8-0 run to end the game, erasing a 5-point deficit with under two minutes to go. He also hit the shot that will forever be etched in UP basketball history, beating the buzzer with a three-pointer that won the game.
Afterward, he repeated a phrase, again and again.
"Lahat ng teammate ko laging sinasabi, walang bibitaw. Kahit anong mangyari, walang bibitaw," said Cagulangan, when asked if they had any doubts during the game. "Manalo, matalo, walang bibitaw."
Cagulangan, who scored eight of his 13 points in overtime, later said that their coach, Goldwin Monteverde, repeatedly emphasized that mantra to him in particular. He had not been having his best game early on, but Cagulangan took his coach's words to heart and came alive in the most crucial moments.
"Lagi akong nire-remind ni coach eh. 'Wag kang bibitaw, kailangan ka sa loob. So lahat naman ng teammates ko, hindi naman sila nagkulang na sabihan ako ng ganoon," he said.
According to UP rookie Carl Tamayo, it's a mantra that has been drilled into the team, and they took refuge in it when Ateneo pulled ahead late in regulation, and again when the Blue Eagles took a five-point lead in overtime.
"Lagi lang nire-remind sa amin ni Coach Gold na 'wag bibitaw, kahit anong mangyari," said Tamayo, who has been coached by Monteverde since his high school days with National University. "Puso sa laro, puso sa ensayo. 'Yun lang talaga."
"Pinanindigan namin na walang bibitaw, kahit anong mangyari. 'Yung mga teammate namin, alam namin nasa likod namin sila. Magkamali kami or maganda ginawa namin, alam ko andiyan sila. Alam ng bawat isa na andiyan ang teammates namin para sa amin," he stressed.
It's a great source of pride for Monteverde that his players took their lessons to heart during the game, and it resulted in a historic championship for the Fighting Maroons. But more important for him is that those lessons will serve his players well outside of the court as well.
"Ang maganda rito is… Hindi naman 'to 'yung tipong sa basketball lang namin nagagamit," the soft-spoken coach said. "I guess after this game or after this season, whatever mate-take away namin from here is sa buhay na namin lahat magagamit."