JD Cagulangan may have emerged as the hero in the University of the Philippines' dream run to a first UAAP championship in 36 years, but the Fighting Maroons wouldn't be in this position if not for CJ Cansino.
The 6-foot-2 guard delivered the booming three off the glass with 47.5 seconds left in regulation that tied the game at 59-all and paved the way for overtime, where the Maroons put away a dramatic 72-69 Game Three win on Friday.
Cansino's game-saving three-pointer was unexpected; in fact he wasn't expected to play at all, having been sidelined since dislocating his patella and a suffering a bone bruise on his right knee in the final elims game against Ateneo.
UP coach Goldwin Monteverde said it was Cansino himself who volunteered to play.
"Actually, CJ approached me yesterday and he told me na, 'Coach, I wanna play. I'm ready.' I asked him twice, 'Are you sure that you really wanna play tomorrow?' Sabi niya, 'For the team, coach, I really wanna help out.'
"I asked him, 'Are you a 100 percent?' Sabi niya, 'Coach, whatever it takes, I'll play.'"
The gamble paid dividends as Cansino delivered 12 quality minutes for UP. He scored 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from rainbow country, the last of those being the overtime-forcing trey from the top of the arc.
Again, it's just a testament to the faith that Monteverde has on his wards.
"When I put him in the game, I never had a second thought about it because the way na sabihin niya sa akin kahapon really convinced me. Talagang naramdaman ko sa kanya na he's really willing to give it his all for this game," he said.
For Cansino, it's all a matter of repaying that trust that Monteverde gave him, saying, "Nagtiwala na lang din ako. Kung sa amin, sa amin talaga. So I'm happy na ako yung ginamit ni God to take the shot and thankful ako na nanalo kami."
It was Cansino's first game in two weeks, and despite still not being at peak condition, the 22-year-old felt that it was a sacrifice that he needed to take to help in UP's cause.
"Grabe kasi yung sinacrifice nila eh. So noong gabi na natalo kami, kinagabihan inisip ko lang kung ano ba yung isa-sacrifice ko: yung sarili ko or yung team? Hindi na ako nag-dalawang isip," he said.
"Sabi ko kung ano man mangyari sa career ko, kung ano man mangyari sa injury ko, hindi ko papabayaan yung teammates ko at hindi ko papabayaan yung UP community. Yung coaches, grabe sila magtrabaho eh at makikita mo na gustong-gusto din nila talaga. Kaya sobrang saya ko dahil kahit injured ako, nakatulong ako sa team."
It's also a sweet redemption for Cansino who can finally call himself a champion after falling short in UAAP Season 82 with UST against the same Ateneo side.
And he can only thank Monteverde for this experience.
"Mas sumobrang sarap siya kasi alam ko yung feeling kung paano natalo," he said.
"Sobrang grateful ako na pinagkatiwalaan ako ni coach Gold sa laro and sa sistema niya. Di naman naging ganoon kahirap kasi alam na namin yung sistema ni coach dahil nakalaban na namin siya noong high school. Grabe siya eh. Hindi lang siya coach, parang tatay mo na din off the court."
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