Cagulangan’s heroics lift La Salle to NCAA juniors finals

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La Salle’s Joel Cagulangan (12) fires up a jumper against San Beda. Arvin Lim, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines – For the first time in nearly a decade, the San Beda Red Cubs will not be competing in the NCAA juniors basketball finals.

La Salle Greenhills (LSGH)-College of St. Benilde will instead be making its first finals appearance since 2013 after the Junior Blazers outlasted the Red Cubs in a triple overtime thriller, 110-108, in a do-or-die game on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Junior Blazers will now face off against defending champion Mapua University Red Robins in the best-of-three NCAA Season 93 juniors finals that stats on Friday, November 10, at the Araneta Coliseum.

Joel Cagulangan was the hero of the game for the Junior Blazers, scoring 29 points on 10-of-21 shooting while adding nine rebounds and nine assists. He played 52 of a possible 55 minutes, drained the three-pointer that sent the game into the second overtime, and converted the go-ahead lay-up in triple OT with under a minute to go.

His efforts ensured that LSGH will appear in the finals for the first time since Season 89, when Prince Rivero and Kobe Paras were starring for the Junior Blazers.

Cagulangan knocked down a booming three-pointer with four seconds left in the second overtime period to tie the game at 95, and the game went into another extension after Evan Nelle’s midrange shot rimmed out as time expired.

The game maintained its fast pace even in the third overtime period, with Inand Fornillos and Germy Mahinay exchanging lay-ups that tied the contest at 103 with just a minute to go.

That was when Cagulangan sped to the other end and converted the lay-up to put LSGH ahead for good, 105-103, with under a minute to go. On the other end, Nelle and Joshua Tagala both missed, forcing the Red Cubs to start fouling.

The game was paused briefly as four players – including Cagulangan and Nelle – went down to cramps and had to be helped back to their respective benches. When play resumed, Jacob Lao coolly knocked down a pair of freebies to pad the Junior Blazers’ lead, and San Beda could get nothing going on the other end.

This is the third straight do-or-die game that LSGH has won this season. They lost five of their last six games in the elimination round but routed San Sebastian College, 108-82, in a playoff to nail the No. 4 spot in the Final Four. They then shocked the top-seeded Red Cubs, 83-72, to force a knockout game for the last finals berth.

Joshua David added 18 points and six rebounds, Fornillos had 16 points and 18 boards, while Joshua Marcos also had a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds for the Junior Blazers.

Meanwhile, it was a bitter loss for San Beda, whose juniors program has advanced to every NCAA finals since Season 85.

Nelle finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists, Ain Obenza added 22 points, and Mahinay had 20 points and 17 rebounds in a losing effort for the Red Cubs.

The scores:

LSGH-CSB 110 — Cagulangan 29, David 18, Fornillos 16, Marcos 15, Morales 9, Mosqueda 8, Sangco 7, Perez 6, Lao 2, Cruz 0.

SBC 108 — Nelle 26, Obenza 22, Mahinay 20, Velasquez 12, Etrata 10, Tagala 7, Abu Hijle 4, Sese 3, Alfaro 2, Nayve 2, Oliva 0.

Quarter scores: 19-20, 36-32, 56-55, 78-78, 89-89, 95-95, 110-108

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