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The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons are champions once again as they defeated the powerhouse Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, 72-69, in overtime of the winner-take-all Game Three to rule over the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament on Friday at the jampacked SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Butuan City native Joel Cagulangan pushed UP to the peak of the UAAP mountain as he coolly sank a stepback three-pointer with 0.5 of a second left to shatter a 69-all deadlock in the extra session. With Ateneo no longer having any timeouts, Dave Ildefonso was forced to heave up a long shot that went nowhere to give UP the Game Three win and the 2-1 series victory.
Things appeared bleak for the Fighting Maroons as they trailed by five, 64-69, with less than a minute left in overtime. But Cagulangan was relentless, first tracking down a loose ball and backing out to the three-point area where he sank a shot to trim the deficit to two.
After a UP stop, Cagulangan found a rolling Malick Diouf for the jam, to tie the game up at 69-all, with 39.7 seconds left.
After a Dave Ildefonso miss on the other end, Cagulangan took the ball, milked the clock, and pulled up for the game-winning triple to send the UP faithful into a raucous celebration.
"Sobrang sarap, wala akong masabi. Champion na kami. Sobrang sarap talaga," said Cagulangan.
This is UP's third title in the league, winning their first title all the way back to the second season of the league and following it up 47 years later during season 49.
"I feel very happy right now," said the soft-spoken first-year head coach of the Fighting Maroons Goldwin Monteverde. "I want to thank the UP community. I also want to thank the Lord God for this championship."
Down by six midway through the fourth quarter, Season MVP Ange Kouame, Raffy Verano, and SJ Belangel stepped up for Ateneo and fueled a 9-0 run to give the Blue Eagles a three-point advantage with just 56.7 seconds to go, 59-56.
However, in the ensuing play, CJ Cansino who returned to action for the first time since May 1 when he hurt his knee, buried a top of the key triple off the board to tie the game at 59 with 47.6 ticks left in the fourth.
Absolute chaos then followed with multiple loose balls and missed shots from Gerry Abadiano and SJ Belangel to send the game to overtime.
Finals MVP Diouf finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, and three steals. He averaged 12.3 rebounds, 11.7 points, 2.7 steals, 2.0 assists, and 1.0 blocks in the series.
Cansino, meanwhile, returned with 14 points.
UP hero Cagulangan produced 13 points five rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Ricci Rivero, playing the final game of his collegiate career, had nine points, three boards, two steals, and one assist, while Rookie of the Year Carl Tamayo added six points, six rebounds, five dimes, and two steals.
Belangel led the Blue Eagles with 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting while Kouame tallied 12 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.