MANILA, Philippines – CJ Cansino’s UAAP Juniors MVP campaign almost ended in heartbreak, and it may still do.
After finishing the first round of UAAP’s Season 80 with a promising 5-2 win-loss record, Cansino and the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tiger Cubs suddenly found themselves burning out and wrapping up the season 7-7 with a flipped 2-5 record for Round 2.
Had they not escaped with a nail-biting 64-62 win on Sunday, February 11, over the defending champion Far Eastern University-Diliman (FEU) Baby Tamaraws, they would have been eliminated from Final 4 contention after the Adamson University (AdU) Baby Falcons finished with a similar 7-7 record earlier that day.
Now, they have to go through the Falcons one more time on Saturday, February 17, to regain their spot on the Final 4 card.
As such, it’s not hard to see why Cansino, the frontrunner season MVP candidate, would prefer a chance at a playoff push over nabbing the individual award.
“Siyempre mas masaya 'yung makapasok kami ng Final 4 kasi 'yun talaga 'yung goal naming lahat,” he said in a post-game interview. “Kung MVP, para sa ’kin ibig sabihin lang nun, ako lang yung masaya. Kung makakapasok kami ng Final 4, buong crowd… buong UST magiging masaya.”
(“Of course I’d be happier if we enter the Final 4 because that’s really the goal of everybody. If I win MVP, for me that only means that I’m the only one happy. If we enter the Final 4, the whole crowd… the whole UST community would be happy.”)
Besides, while Cansino still has a comfortable lead in the statistical point (SP) rankings, he has slowly loosened his grip due to the increase in losses and the strong finishes of other candidates like Ateneo’s 7-foot-1 sensation Kai Sotto and athletic combo guard SJ Belangel, who closed out the regular season with an efficient 31-point explosion over the second-seeded National University (NU) Bullpups.
Right now, Cansino is just relieved that the team did not blow out their tires on the racetrack mere moments before the final lap.
“’Yung mga pinaghirapan namin ‘nung last few weeks, lumabas ngayon,” he said. “Ang saya namin kasi natanggal dun ‘yung streak namin [na] puro talo. Ang ganda ‘nung first round namin pero nitong second round, pumangit.”
(“The hard work we put in the last few weeks paid off today. We’re happy because we broke our losing streak. We had a good run in the first round, but in the second round, it just went bad.”)
“Sobrang, sobrang frustrated naming lahat,” he added. “Ako, nakikita ko sa training na sobrang bigat ‘nung mga ginagawa namin. Sobrang bigat sa loob. Pero nag-stay positive na lang kaming lahat. Nag-stand up ako para sabihin sa kanila na “’Di pa tapos. Kaya pa natin ‘to.”
(“We were all really, really frustrated. I personally saw in training how heavy it wore down on the things we did. It was emotionally heavy. But we all just stayed positive. I stood up to tell them that “This isn’t finished. We can still do this.”)
While Cansino might eventually still go down with the rest of the Cubs given the huge odds against them, he has proven this season that he would always, always go down swinging. – Rappler.com