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Golden Talent Shines in UAAP Finals Contenders

Mark Nonoy and CJ Cansino are back in the UAAP Finals, but on opposite sides of the floor this time.

Four seasons after falling short of giving University of Santo Tomas (UST) the championship, Nonoy and Cansino could have been dominant players for UST if not for the “Sorsogon bubble” at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic tearing up Aldin Ayo’s solid program to pieces.

The bubble in Ayo’s hometown was a training camp for the Growling Tigers, who were priming up to be championship contenders for the following season despite all the health uncertainties in the country that made the government declare all sorts of health protocols to prevent physical contact.

The core of that Santo Tomas team that included Rhenz Abando, Beninese center Soulemane Chabi Yo and Brent Paraiso would have contended—if not won—a title had it stayed together.

Fast forward to today and Ayo has moved on to the Philippine Basketball Association with Converge and here are Nonoy and Cansino—who have remained steady friends off the floor after moving to La Salle and the University of the Philippines (UP), respectively—shooting for a title.

Cansino already has a championship with the Fighting Maroons which they won in Season 84, a year that started a trend for UP being in the title series.

Nonoy, meanwhile, is still working for his first with the Taft-based squad, which is back in the Finals after a long six-year wait not typical for a program that is so formidable.

UP and La Salle split their elimination round clashes and dispatched of their Final Four foes with relative ease last Saturday to head to the Last Dance that starts on Wednesday.

The atmosphere will be electric at Mall of Asia Arena for sure, and both ex-Tigers will be there fighting for their respective alma maters.

But through it all, Nonoy believes that the bond they shared in España is still there, and will remain to be there after all of this is said and done.

“We still talk sometimes. We just want to give the fans a good fight and do our best,” Nonoy said of his former teammate.

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“On the court we are rivals, but the friendship is still there being former teammates,” Nonoy said. But no one can really tell what will happen when everyone’s in the heat of the battle. INQ