Paul Desiderio saved his finest performance for the Go for Gold Scratchers in Game 3, as he took charge in the clutch to deliver a thrilling 98-96 victory over the Che’Lu Revellers in the 2018 PBA D-League Foundation Cup Finals, Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
The UP Fighting Maroon not only drilled two huge triples in the last 1:05, but emerged as the hero in the end game, driving past Levi Hernandez to score the game-winning layup with 3.4 ticks to spare.
“I rode with Paul. I said, ‘Bahala ka. Get the ball, do whatever you want, just take us home’, and he did,” said coach Charles Tiu.
Desiderio did not waste Tiu’s faith, pumping 22 of his 28 points in the second half on top of four rebounds to guide the Scratchers to a 2-1 series lead and a win away from the title.
Gab Banal chipped in 11 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Vince Tolentino got 19 and five for Go for Gold, who clawed their way back from a 16-point deficit, 62-46 in the third frame.
Down 80-71, the Scratchers unleashed a 24-11 blast to grab a 95-91 lead with 26.3 seconds remaining, after Desiderio’s second trey seemingly put the game out of reach.
Jeff Viernes scored on a quick two on the other end, and after a Jai Reyes split from the line, Chris Bitoon managed to knot the score anew with an and-one play off of a Desiderio foul with 14.7 seconds left on the clock.
But the Cebuano could not let his team down, making his move with five seconds left and sending the Scratchers to their feet.
“You have to give credit to the players, all the credit to the players. The only thing I told them at halftime is it’s a championship game,” said Tiu. “You say you want to win pero kulang yung effort. They were outplaying us and we couldn’t make shots. But in the second half, we said that as long as you play defense, you’ll start winning. The guys just made plays.”
Viernes topped Che’Lu with 23 points, six assists, and three rebounds in the heartbreaker, as Hernandez and Bitoon scored 17 points apiece.
Go for Gold can go for the jugular on Game 4 on Tuesday, still at the same venue.
Go for Gold 98 – Desiderio 28, Banal 11, Tolentino 10, Publico 9, Reyes 9, Dennison 8, wong 8, Porter 7, Salem 5, Canada 3, Gaco 0.
Che’Lu 96 – Viernes 23, Bitoon 17, Hernandez 17, Collado 12, Melano 11, Taganas 5, De Joya 4, Siruma 3, Ochea 2, Sta. Ana 0.
Quarterscores: 22-21, 38-52, 63-71, 98-96.