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MANILA, Philippines – For the second straight UAAP season, the UP Fighting Maroons found themselves as spectators to a championship celebration after the La Salle Green Archers rallied back from a 30-point men’s basketball finals Game 1 beatdown to clinch the Season 86 title in a cardiac Game 3.
In front of a record-setting 25,000-strong crowd at the Araneta Coliseum, MVP Kevin Quiambao finished the story of his stratospheric rise and led La Salle to its first championship in seven years and its 10th overall.
Standing somberly at the sidelines as the jubilant Archers erupted in celebration were two of UP’s key cogs, former MVP Malick Diouf and resurgent guard CJ Cansino, who both watched as their final shot at redemption and what would have been a second championship barely slipped away from their grasp.
Despite back-to-back bridesmaid finishes, Maroons head coach Goldwin Monteverde took solace in the fact that his two on-court leaders gave everything they had in their last dance, and that they set the standard on what UP basketball should be for those who will be left.
“They were huge for us. CJ [and Malick], it’s an honor to coach these two players,” he said after the series. “How they were in the team, being the big brothers, that’s the big thing I saw.”
“We all know about their talent, but the kind of guidance and patience they gave the team and being real with the rest, it’s not easy to find people like that, and I’m really thankful for them.”
Although both players ultimately fell short in their task of composing the perfect swan song, both were nothing but grateful for all the memories they had in their stay with the Maroons, highlighted by their historic Season 84 title win – UP’s first in 36 years.
“Of course, Malick and I are thankful for the UP community’s continuous support. They loved us like no other, win or lose. They were always there,” Cansino said. “We’re nothing but thankful for how our UP careers turned out.”
“I think they’re gonna have a good future because seeing the rookies right now, you know they have Maimai (Cagulangan), like Aldous (Torculas), and others,” Diouf added. “I think they’re gonna go far and I wish they’re gonna go far. We will be there for them, anywhere. If they need help from us.”
The UP story for Cansino and Diouf ended on a sad note, for sure, but given the sheer, unique highs the pair still reached in their time, they more than likely would not trade the Maroons’ experience for any other if given the chance. – Rappler.com