Cantonjos urges Tiger Cubs to put struggles behind, prove doubters wrong in semis
UST coach Chris Cantonjos was ecstatic after the Tiger Cubs clinched a semis stint for the first time in six seasons. Marlo Cueto

UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas coach Chris Cantonjos lauded the Tiger Cubs for overcoming distractions all throughout the UAAP Season 80 juniors basketball tournament to reach the semifinals for the first time in six years.

The Tiger Cubs clinched a semis spot after beating Adamson in overtime, 73-72, earning the right to play in the first round of the stepladder playoffs against Far Eastern University on Saturday.

Cantonjos said his team showed they deserved to be in the Final Four despite the struggles on the court as well as distractions off it.

“They deserve respect. From the start, no one believed us na aabot kami sa Final Four,” said Cantonjos, without elaborating.

“‘Yung puso ng Thomasian, lumabas talaga,” said the former Growling Tiger, the only player who won all four straight championships during the 1990s.

UST barely made it to the playoff round, losing the five of its first six games in the second round before beating FEU in the final day of the eliminations to arrange a playoff game against Adamson.

Cantonjos’ job has also been clouded with controversy following the entry of new UST seniors coach Aldin Ayo. Reports said Cantonjos will no longer be renewed as coach of the juniors basketball team with Ayo at the helm.

Due to the reports, Cantonjos has made critical comments against Ayo during the season, but did not let the issue distract the Tiger Cubs from accomplishing the goal of making the playoffs.

“But now, napakita ng team na they deserve it,” said Cantonjos.

Led by MVP CJ Cansino, the Tiger Cubs squeaked out an overtime victory over the Baby Falcons. Cansino, who will be awarded with the Most Valuable Player for Season 80, scored eight of his 24 points in the extra period in the nailbiter.

Cantonjos is proud that their hardwork paid off in the game, as the Tiger Cubs are now looking forward to pulling some shockers in the playoffs.

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“‘Yung first and second round is done. Tapos na ’yun. Kung ano man nangyari dun, kalimutan na natin ‘yun. Ang importante, makalusot tayo dito,” said Cantonjos.

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