GREATEST PERFORMANCES: Joel Cagulangan's NCAA 93 playoff run
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Jul 02, 2020 03:45 PM
Safe to say, Joel Cagulangan willed LSGH to its first-ever championship back in 2017
Joel Cagulangan was, hands-down, the best player in all of the NCAA Jrs. in the Season 93 playoffs.
And he had to be because College of St. Benilde-La Salle Green Hills lost five of its last six games in the elimination round and had to win a knockout bout against San Sebastian College-Recoletos just to get into the Final Four.
There, they had to down powerhouse San Beda High School not once, but twice before moving on to a date with defending champion Mapua High School.
Safe to say, the odds were all against the Jr. Blazers in that playoff run - but one player, one player who only stood at 5-feet, 8-inches willed them to do the impossible.
That was no more evident than in the winner-take-all Finals Game 3 where LSGH was trailing by one with less than a minute remaining.
After getting a defensive rebound, Cagulangan got a foul for his troubles and was sent to the line where he coolly converted both free throws.
Not long after, two defensive stops by partner-in-crime Joshua David finished off an improbable championship.
In the end, the Butuan native had 19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and four steals to his name - unquestionably recognized as the Finals MVP.
Inand Fornilos, the green and white's tireless forward then, perhaps put it perfectly when he said, “Pag wala siya, parang magiging imposible. Pag nandun siya, kayang-kaya.”
And yet, that wasn't even Cagulangan's most impressive game.
In another do-or-die game, this one, Game 2 against the top-seeded and twice-to-beat Red Cubs, the Jr. Blazers found themselves all even with their opponents at 103-all with less than a minute remaining in the third overtime.
It was at that point, that the pint-sized playmaker sliced and diced his way to a left-handed layup.
That proved to be the go-ahead basket en route to a 110-108 decision in the classic contest.
There wasn't even supposed to be a third extra period as LSGH was down by three with 11 ticks to go in the clock in the second overtime before Cagulagan buried a booming triple to emphatically exclaim that the game was far from over.
In the end, he had 29 points to go along with nine assists, nine rebounds, and two steals and played all but three of the possible 55 minutes in a matchup that had 22 lead changes and seven deadlocks.
That performance will always be known as the first and foremost show of just how great his will to win is.
Fortunately for the University of the Philippines, it will be getting to know just that as Joel Cagulangan is now its point guard of the future.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.