THE University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons hungered for a UAAP men's basketball championship for the last 36 years.
The long wait finally ended on Friday with an epic victory over the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles that was capped by a three-pointer in the dying moments of an overtime period.
Joel Cagulangan worked around a pick set up by center Malick Diouf to set himself up for the step-back triple that shattered a 69-all tie with 0.5 seconds to go.
The UP fans that packed the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City exploded in wild celebration.
A court-length desperation heave by Dave Ildefonso was wide of the mark.
The Fighting Maroons' 72-69 victory also ended the Blue Eagles' three-season reign as men's basketball titlists.
Diouf was named the Finals MVP.
The finals series went the full route after Ateneo edged out UP last Wednesday to force Friday's do-or-die game.
Cagulangan "knows that the entire team really trusts him. At that given moment, he knew the situation, we never had any doubt about him and he did it," said UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde moments after the game.
"I'm just really happy because of the way that we won. I'm very honored to have coached UP," Monteverde added.
The UP team that won the championship in 1986 featured eventual basketball legends Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc.
The end of the long wait almost never happened.
UP was leading Ateneo, 56-50, with 6:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, before the defending champions unleashed a 9-0 run to take a 59-56 cushion following SJ Belangel's two free throws in the last 56.7 seconds.
CJ Cansino stepped up big for UP, draining a triple at the 47.8-second mark to tie the game. Gerry Abadiano tried to win it outright for UP with a halfcourt 3-point attempt, but missed.
The game went into overtime.
A Gian Mamuyac corner trey lifted the Blue Eagles to a 69-64 lead with 1:47 remaining in the extra period, but Cagulangan's triple and Diouf's dunk tied the count at 69 in the last 39.7 seconds of the game that witnessed by 15,132 fans.
Ildefonso then missed on the other end, paving the way for Cagulangan's go-ahead 3-point bomb.
Cagulangan finished with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Diouf had 17 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Cansino chipped in 14 points as Harold Alarcon notched eight markers and four boards.
Belangel led the Blue Eagles with 27 points, four assists and three blocks as season MVP Ange Kouame got 12 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Mamuyac added 10 points, six rebounds and three assists, and Raffy Verano contributed five points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
UP 72: Diouf 17, Cansino 14, Cagulangan 13, Rivero 9, Alarcon 8, Tamayo 6, Spencer 3, Lucero 0, Abadiano 0, Fortea 0.
ATENEO 69: Belangel 27, Kouame 12, Mamuyac 10, Koon 6, Verano 5, Ildefonso 2, Tio 2, Andrade 0, Daves 0, Chiu 0.
Quarters: 17-11, 31-27, 46-47, 59-59, 72-69.