Mendoza: Cagulangan’s step-aside three

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There is a brand-new shot in basketball.

No, it’s not from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Not even from America’s National Basketball Association (NBA).

It is—of all places—from the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

The shot inventor is not even a certified star. Not yet, anyway.

Does the name JD Cagulangan ring a bell?

Never heard?

The initial scant data on Cagulangan’s resume came from Du Hizon, Senen Glorioso’s friendly neighbor at Valle Verde in Pasig.

“He was a junior standout at La Salle Greenhills,” Du texted.

Before that, Coach Dayong, one of Leo Austria’s six assistants at San Miguel Beer (the PBA’s winningest team ever), said to me: “The first time I saw Cagulangan play, I knew immediately the kid is PBA material.”

Cagulangan unveiled his shot last week, triggering the UP Fighting Maroons’ stunning overtime victory in the UAAP men’s basketball Finals.

It clinched for UP the Game 3 decider, in the process foiling favored Ateneo’s bid for a fourth straight crown.

The shot also made Goldwyn Monteverde, the rookie UP coach, an instant sensation. He humbled Tab Baldwin, the Ateneo coach who, only a while back, insulted all Filipino coaches as “technically deficient.”

Overall, Monteverde beat Baldwin 4-1 in the league’s Season 84, ending the American’s 39-game winning streak since 2018.

What made Cagulangan’s winning shot doubly spectacular was it came with .5 of a second left.

If the jam-packed crowd of 15,135 at the MOA Arena in Pasay City had initially believed the shot would turn out to be a dud, they’d be readily absolved.

But Cagulangan proved to be of sterner stuff.

If Steph Curry has his step-back three, then definitely, Cagulangan has his step-aside three, which is so phenomenal it snapped UP’s 36-year title drought.

To execute it, Cagulangan had to break free by moving sideways to his left before uncorking the innovative shot with puma-quickness, shattering a 69-all tie and giving UP a 72-69 victory that had totally looked improbable to achieve as Ateneo was up, 69-64, with 1:40 to go.

Cagulangan played possessed.

Earlier, he buried a three. Grabbed a rebound. Fed Finals MVP Malick Diouf for a dunk: 69-all.

“I had no doubt Cagulangan would execute,” said Monteverde. “And he did.”

An “Ateneocutioner” is born.

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