The Centro Escolar University’s Cinderella run in the 2019 PBA D-League came to a crushing end on a Tuesday afternoon.
The Scorpions absorbed a 66-98 beating at the hands of the Tab Baldwin-coached Cignal-Ateneo in Game Four of the best-of-five title series – a game in which the Blue Eagles showed why they are the current top collegiate team in the country.
“We feel bad, but we really lost to a better team.
“Ateneo is just a very strong team. They showed their dominance in today’s game. I tried to push them, but hanggang doon na lang,” conceded CEU head coach Derrick Pumaren.
But no one among the Mendiola-based dribblers hung their heads after the mauling they received. For Pumaren, they have nothing to be ashamed of, since their journey to the Finals is an achievement in itself.
In the middle of their quarterfinal series versus Go For Gold-St. Benilde, the Scorpions were reduced to just eight men following the involvement of some of their players to game-fixing allegations.
Still, they managed to pull through despite their limited manpower. With Malick Diouf becoming the team’s rock, CEU took down a healthy and complete St. Clare College-Virtual Reality in the semifinals to make it to the Big Dance.
“I told the boys today that for me, in my books, you’re already a champion. You’ve done something incredible. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and you have to keep your heads high,” expressed the decorated bench strategist.
“My message to my team is I’d like to congratulate them for getting here despite of all the issues, the distractions. We still made it all the way here to the Finals – we were even able to steal one game from Ateneo.”
Even Cignal-Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin could not help but marvel at what CEU accomplished this conference, including that Game Two stunner against them. Moreover, the internationally-renowned tactician shared that his squad learned a lot in this series.
“You know, I think Derrick’s been around too long for me to say that I’m really proud of him. But I think I think I’m proud to have competed against them, you know, because they really brought everything and the adversity that they’ve been under.
“You know, sometimes that’s what sports is about – how we confront adversity – and they’ve had more than their fair share. And I think what we have seen of them is exemplary, both individually from the players and for the coaching staff in terms of getting them ready to play,” Baldwin said.
“They taught us a lesson, which is great. You know, we need those lessons. So congratulations to Derrick. I know second place never feels good. You know, it just if you don’t win the last game of the season, it doesn’t feel good, but I’m just very impressed with what they accomplished,” the American-Kiwi coach expressed.
Now that the Finals are over, Pumaren has his sights set on filling in the gaps left by the booted-out players. He hopes that he will have enough time for it, since the Scorpions will also be joining the D-League’s second conference in July.
“We can use this as a springboard for the next conference ng D-League. Hopefully, I will have enough time to be able to field in players dahil we’re back to the drawing board because nawala yung ibang players.”