It was “a harsh pill,” according to Tab Baldwin. But it seems that Ateneo had no choice but to swallow it.
Baldwin noted that the Blue Eagles were, in the end, struggling against fate.
The Ateneo coach stated, “I just felt like it was destiny.” “Those are not shots that normal teams make in normal games, much less in a championship game,” the commentator said.
If one were to examine where these shots originated, one might conclude that it was fate. The decisive plays that led to a championship-clinching 72-69 victory in the UAAP men’s basketball finals aid by a convergence of destinies.
CJ Cansino, the former captain of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), emerged from the rubble of a promising program destroyed by an ill-advised training camp in Sorsogon and made his way to Diliman. Cansino would attempt a three-pointer to hit the glass and ricochet into the net, tying the game at 59 and giving the University of the Philippines (UP) five additional minutes in a must-win game.
CJ Cansino stated, “Of course, this feels pretty fantastic.” “I understand what it’s like to lose [in the Finals].”
Cansino was a member of the UST team that lost the 2019 title to Ateneo
Malick Diouf, who joined the Maroons after an illustrious tenure with Centro Escolar University in a different league, tied the score for the final time in overtime with a slam dunk off a brilliant pick-and-roll set up by JD Cagulangan, tying the score at 69.
Diouf finished the Finals with 17 points and nine rebounds, earning him the Most Valuable Player award.
“I am speechless at the moment,” Diouf stated.
There was also Cagulangan. Lost in the roster shuffle at La Salle, Cagulangan sought a position where he could earn playing time to prove his worth. UP provided him with those and more.
The Maroons trusted him.
Cagulangan had missed eight of his 12 efforts from the field into the last play.
And yet, as he waved off his teammates for one more screen and roll, the Maroons compiled, hurrying out of the way to give him space to decide the fate of a 36-year-long painful wait, one that had generated several winless seasons and twice as many jokes.
“My numbers were terrible, but the coaches still had faith in me,” stated Cagulangan
It was the most unbelievable thing that could have happened to us.
Cagulangan momentarily liberated from his defender and created additional space by skipping to the side. Then he released the shot.
And as the shot arced in midair, everything came together: UST’s decision to set up camp during a pandemic lockdown, Diouf’s decision to leave his comfort zone and join the Maroons, and Cagulangan’s lack of playing time against La Salle.
Knows what would have transpired with five-tenths of a second remaining in Game 3 of a tightly contested Finals series if anything altered?
Would Ricci Rivero, who left a championship program at La Salle, have won two UAAP championships with other schools?
Would Goldwyn Monteverde replicate his junior success at the senior level?
Who can say? Athletes could locate a house in UP. It might have been fate.
However, the Maroons needed something else to hold fate in place, to bind all that chance together into a glorious moment.
Cagulangan retrieved a shot that had sailed out of the hoop from that key rebound. The defense was responsible for forcing Ateneo’s execution into late shots and shot clock infractions.
Baldwin stated, “They worked incredibly hard for it.”
They desired the victory as well. “We never gave up,” Cagulangan remarked, no matter their difficulties.
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