by Jerome Lagunzad
In what could be considered as one of the fiercest battles ever, La Salle-Greenhills just proved a tad hungrier over San Beda yesterday.
Diminutive guard Joel Cagulangan stood tallest down the stretch as the Junior Blazers outlasted the Red Cubs in a triple-overtime showdown, 110-108, to advance to the 93rd NCAA juniors basketball finals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The 5-foot-8 Cagulangan flirted with a triple-double of 29 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, even scoring the go-ahead lay-up with under a minute left in the third extension before succumbing to cramps in the closing seconds.
Jacob Lao and Makoy Marcos then preserved Cagulangan’s game-long brilliance with four clutch points from the 15-foot line as the Greenies did enough on the defensive end to hold off the gritty Red Cubs.
The hard-earned victory enabled fourth-ranked LSGH to overhaul a twice-to-beat advantage enjoyed by the top-seeded San Beda and book its third trip to the finals since returning to the country’s oldest collegiate league in 1998.
The Greenies will take on the defending champion Mapua Red Robins in a best-of-three title showdown starting on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The stunning loss by San Beda, however, put a whimper on what turned out to be a solid high school career made by graduating guard Evan Nelle, who came up with a usual all-around numbers of 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
The Red Cubs could have extended their finals trip for the ninth straight year had they protected a 95-92 edge with 11.1 seconds to play in the second overtime.
Cagulangan, however, had other plans as he broke away from his defender off a multiple screen from the baseline then gained enough separation for his fifth triple to tie things up anew with 4.2 seconds left.
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