Anxious moments filled the Centro Escolar University Scorpions’ side late in the deciding Game Three of their 2019 PBA D-League semifinal meeting versus a familiar foe in St. Clare College-Virtual Reality Saints, Tuesday afternoon.
With 3:11 left to play, CEU suffered a tough blow when Senegalese big man Malick Diouf got called for a flagrant foul penalty one following a landing spot foul on Raymond Rubio. That meant he had to sit out for three minutes.
It was a nerve-wracking moment for the Scorpions as Diouf had been a major key for them in the match, and losing him might allow the Saints to mount a comeback as they were facing an 80-67 deficit when the lengthy slotman exited.
The 19-year-old, however, was unshaken. And it’s because of the confidence he has with his teammates.
“Me, I don’t get nervous in the game. I never get nervous … If the refs give me a foul, it’s okay … I don’t get nervous. Because if I get nervous, it’s gonna be hard for me to play,” said Diouf, who left with 14 points and 20 rebounds.
“I have my confidence. When I go out I have my confidence with my teammates. When I saw the time and it’s only three minutes left I said it’s okay, my teammates can finish it.”
The other Scorpions did not disappoint.
With Rich Guinitaran and Dave Bernabe holding the fort for the Mendiola-based cagers, CEU dealt with Diouf’s absence greatly, and it paved the way to the 89-72 victory that clinched them a spot in the D-League championship round.
Diouf is elated with the win, especially due to the fact that they were able to do so despite having limited manpower — only seven Scorpions have been playing these playoffs, as the others got kicked out following game-fixing allegations.
“I’m so happy because we played only [with] seven players,” expressed Diouf. “It’s so hard to win. So hard.”
The Scorpions, though, will face a tall order in the title bout, as they will be facing favorites Cignal-Ateneo in a best-of-five series. Diouf knows who will they be facing, but he vowed that CEU will give it their all versus the Blue Eagles.
“They’re a good team. They’re a disciplined team. I was watching them last time in the semifinals against San Sebastian,” he said, recalling Ateneo’s semis clash with Valencia City-San Sebastian which the former swept.
“They’re a disciplined team. I know they will be hard, but we will do our best.”
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