Centro Escolar University outlasted Olivarez College, 78-73, and moved on the threshold of sweeping 5th PG Flex Linoleum-Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) with a 78-73 win in Game 1 Monday, Jan. 30 at the Paco Arena in Manila.
After lording over the elims including a 94-61 rout of the Olivarez the first time they clashed, the Scorpions were expected to win convincingly.
But Olivarez proved up to the task, giving the Scorpions some headaches before the Mendiola-based squad made crucial plays down the stretch to finally take the fight out of the Sea Lions.
CEU can regain the title it won in 2017 with another win on Thursday at the same venue.
Ayodeji Balogun expectedly led CEU with 12 points and nine rebounds while Lenard Santiago added 13. Franz Diaz and Vince Ferrer were the other players in double digits for the Scorpions with 11 and 10 points respectively.
Despite a week-long break after advancing outright to the finals with a 12-game sweep of the elims, the Scorpions started hot, establishing double-digit leads the kast at 77-63 with a little over three minutes left in the payoff period.
Olivarez, however, refused to give up the fight easily as it rallied mightily behind the hot-shooting duo of John Umali and Edmund Dela Cruz and pulled to within 77-73.
The Scorpions, however, were rock solid in its final defensive stand, forcing the Sea Lions to well-contested shots to preserve the victory.
Dela Cruz paced Olivarez with 20 points and 17 rebounds while Umali added 16 points and seven boards, all of which were not enough as they saw their seven-game winning streak from the end of the elimination to the step-ladder semis snapped.