Robbi Darang nailed a short jumper in the final 17.5 seconds as the Diliman College Blue Dragons nipped the Centro Escolar University Scorpions, 87-86, to claim the top seed in the Final Four of the Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) Season 3, Thursday at the Olivarez College in Parañaque City.
The Scorpions tried to turn things around in the next play, but the Blue Dragons used their solid defense on Keanu Caballero, who handed the ball over to Maodo Diouf but lost control of their possession.
“Heads up to Robbi Darang for his guts during the crucial seconds of the game. He delivered. Praise God, because of him, we won,” said coach Renzy Bajar after Diliman finished with the league’s best record at 11-1.
The loss halted CEU’s 10-game winning run, as they settled for second place in the elimination round.
With nothing at stake but placings in the Final Four the Blue Dragons-Scorpions duel has trimmings of a championship preview.
“CEU is a tough team. They have a good coaching staff, especially with coach Derrick Pumaren. Hopefully we meet each other again,” said Bajar.
Meantime, the Lyceum of the Philippines-Batangas Pirates closed their campaign with a 104-101 overtime win over the St. Joseph College of Bulacan Taurs.
The Scorpions led by as much as eight, 21-13, and trailed by as much as 10, 68-78. Then the Mendiola-based squad made a huge fightback and grabbed the upper hand at 86-85 on a Keanu Caballero lay-up, with 23.2 seconds remaining.
Holding twice-to-beat advantage for finishing in the top two, the Blue Dragons and the Scorpions need only to win once to advance in the best-of-three Finals.
Darang finished with 19 points, five assists and four rebounds, while Joseph Brutas chipped in 12 markers for Diliman.
Rich Guinitaran paced CEU with 21 points to go with five rebounds. Diouf had a double-double with 16 points and 18 rebounds.
Diliman will face No. 4 Technological Institute of the Philippines in the semifinals starting Monday. CEU will play third-ranked Olivarez College in the other Final Four pairing.