Joel Cagulangan has won at least three games for College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills in the NCAA 93 Juniors Basketball Tournament.
It was only fitting that he was winning the championship for them as well.
Cagulangan’s free throws coupled with Joshua David’s definitive defense energized the Junior Blazers right through now-dethroned champion Mapua University, 75-74, in a thriller of a triumph on Friday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Now, Greenhills will be celebrating the first-ever championship in its school history. “We joined the NCAA in 1998 and for all the players who played since 1998 until today, this is for them,” a beaming head coach Marvin Bienvenida said.
Trailing by one with less than a minute remaining, the 5-foot-9 point guard got a rebound and got a foul for his troubles. Sent to the line, he coolly converted both free throws to put his team up by one.
At the other end, the Red Robins put the ball in the hands of red-hot Clint Escamis only to see David get two defensive stops on him in the same possession. “Nakukuha naman ng mga ‘to lagi yung bola,” Bienvenida said of his guards.
The off-guard, standing at six-feet, was also sent to the line but muffed on both his charities. He made up for it at the other end, however, bothering towering Warren Bonifacio just enough as time was running out on Mapua.
The ball ended up in the hands of Mike Enriquez, but his triple try went backrim.
And so, CSB-LSGH reached the mountaintop after the steepest of climbs. “After the buzzer sounded, it seemed like I was in a dream. I cannot describe this,” the head coach said.
They lost five of the last six games in the elimination round and had to win a knockout bout against resurgent San Sebastian College-Recoletos for the fourth-seed. Once there, they then downed top-seed and twice-to-beat San Beda High School to move onto the Finals.
The championship experience of Mapua showed and yet, the Junior Blazers didn’t give up.
At the forefront of it all was Cagulangan with 19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and four steals while David had 26 markers, six boards, and two assists. Both will be back next season as they go for back-to-back championships.
There, Bienvenida is shying away from what would now be new targets on their backs. “Yes, I could say we could be the favorite, pero ‘di naman basta-basta binibigay yun. Papaghirapan namin,” he said.
For the Red Robins, Escamis topped the scoring column with 21 points. He will be left behind by all of graduating players Bonifacio, Mike Enriquez, Joaqui Garcia, Will Gozum, and Carl Lacap.
CSB-LSGH 75 – David 27, Cagulangan 19, Lao 8, Fornilos 6, Marcos 5, Lepalam 4, Mosqueda 3, Perez 3, Morales 0, Pedrosa 0, Sangco 0
MAPUA 74 – Escamis 21, Lacap 13, Gozum 12, Bonifacio 10, Enriquez 8, Ramos 6, Garcia 4, Jabel 0, Dennison 0, Arches 0, Sarias 0
QUARTER SCORES: 15-19, 32-44, 53-56, 75-74
This story was originally published on the ABS-CBN Sports website.