Robbi Darang hit a tough jumper in the last seven seconds, as top seed Diliman College snatched a 64-63 victory over a stunned Centro Escolar University side to claim the first finals berth in the PG Flex Linoleum-Universities and Colleges Basketball League at the Olivarez College gym in Sucat, yesterday.
The top-seeded Blue Dragons also shackled the Scorpions with their pesky defense in the stretch. They forced CEU’s Maodo Diouf into an errant pass that preserved Darang’s late-game heroics.
Diliman College remain on track for the first-ever back-to-back championships in the league.
The No. 4 Scorpions — who needed two victories to barge into the finals — appeared headed closer to a dream championship stint. Eric Tuadles rifled in a triple to shove CEU to a lead, 63-62, with only 35 seconds left in the close contest.
But Diliman College flubbed three shots, including two from Abdoulaye Niang. The Blue Dragons then went to their defense, forcing CEU to a turnover in the last 17 seconds. That then set up Darang’s game-winner.
The Blue Dragons will face the victor in the Olivarez College-University of Batangas duel — ongoing as of press time — for the crown set next week. As the No. 2 seed, the Olivarez Sea Lions need only a victory to arrange another title clash with the Blue Dragons.
A UB victory, however, will force a sudden death for the other finals berth on Nov. 4, also in Sucat. Solar Sports airs delayed telecasts of all matches.
Kevine Gandjeto topscored for Diliman with 13 points. Billshan Digno fired 12 points in the first three quarters but was held scoreless in the last 10 minutes. Niang (10 points) and Jethro Sombrero then took over to keep the Blue Dragons, handled by Rensy Bajar, in step with the Scorpions, before Darang turned hot in the clutch.
Sombrero finished with 11 markers, with five straight spiked by a triple that put Diliman back on top, 58-56, heading to the last 3:55.
But the Scorpions, whom the Blue Dragons in the double-round elims, kept pressing their bid. Diouf first hit a jumper to tie it at 58, before Christian Malicana delivered a twinner to lift CEU to the lead again.
Earl Salazar, however, scored to force another deadlock. Niang came through with another hit, before Tuadles buried that triple to put CEU on top again.
The Scorpions surprised the Blue Dragons with gutsy plays in the first quarter, seizing control at 15-13. The latter then regained their bearings to take control at the turn, 27-25. Unfortunately, they yielded in the face of the Scorpions’ strong charge in the third, 48-46, setting the stage for the down-to-the-wire finish.
Diouf finished with a game-high 28 points, while Dave Bernabe and Tuadles combined for 23.
The Derrick Pumaren-mentored Scorpions fell short of their upset bid and dropped to a battle for third.
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