The Centro Escolar University Scorpions stunned the Cignal-Ateneo Blue Eagles, 77-74, to level the 2019 PBA D-League Finals on Tuesday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Jerome Santos uncorked 28 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists as the difference-maker for the seven-man Scorpions.
Senegalese big man Maodo Malick Diouf remained solid upfront with his 23 points, 16 boards, four steals, two dimes, and two blocks. Meanwhile, Rich Guinitaran chipped in 13 points, two assists, and two blocks.
“I think we’re able to redeem ourselves today. We’re able to show up in the championship game,” said coach Derrick Pumaren. “What I told my players is more on motivation. I told them to believe in themselves, that we can be in the same league in Ateneo. I’m just happy to see the fight and us competing in this game.”
It was a different CEU team from Game One, as they grabbed a 65-55 lead midway through the fourth.
Cignal-Ateneo would then stage a 14-4 response to knot the score at 69 with exactly two minutes remaining.
The game, though, was decided on the charity stripe. The Scorpions converted six of their eight freebies in the endgame, with Franz Diaz burying the crucial shots in the last 10.1 ticks as they held a 77-74 lead.
Guinitaran then almost squandered the game with a turnover on his inbound play. Fortunately, refs whistled Adrian Wong for a travelling violation, which returned the ball to CEU.
Wong and SJ Belangel still had their shots to force overtime, but their triples rattled out of the basket as the buzzer horned.
Wong carried the Blue Eagles with 17 points on a 4-of-7 clip from beyond the arc.
Ivorian slotman Ange Kouame nabbed a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks, while Belangel got 13 off the bench in the loss.
Cignal-Ateneo played without senior forward Isaac Go, who was feeling under the weather.
Game Three is on Thursday, still at the Ynares Sports Arena.
CEU 77 –– Santos 28, Diouf 23, Guinitaran 13, Diaz 8, Bernabe 2, Abastillas 2, Sunga 1.
Cignal-ADMU 74 — Wong 17, Kouame 14, Belangel 13, Ravena 10, Andrade 6, Daves 4, Mi. Nieto 4, Mamuyac 4, Ma. Nieto 2, Tio 0, Navarro 0, Credo 0, Berjay 0.
Quarterscores: 16-13, 34-39, 53-52, 77-74.
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