Seven-man CEU five nips St. Clare, zeroes in on Finals slot.
Reduced toonly seven players, Centro Escolar University continued its improbable run in the PBA D-League.
Rich Guinitaran scored the game-winning lay-up in the final 13.7 seconds as the Scorpions nipped St. Clare-Virtual Reality, 76-75, to move within a win of making it to the Finals yesterday at the Paco Arena.
In the other game, Cignal-Ateneo overpowered City of Valencia Bukidnon-SSC-R, 105-67, to also zero in on the other championship berth.
The Scorpions and the Blue Eagles go for the clincher on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena.
As CEU won its second straight contest after a game-fixing scandal where seven players were sacked, coach Derrick Pumaren was simply elated by the attitude displayed by his remaining troops in the semifinals opener.
“You have to give it to the boys. Though we’re just playing with just seven guys, I told them when we step inside the court, it’s all about winning,” said Pumaren.
The late bucket was the biggest of the 18 points of Guinatara, who also provided support to another historic afternoon for the Scorpions’ Senegalese center Malick Diouf.
Grabbing 33 boards, Diouf once again set the PBA D-League all-time record for the most number of rebounds to go with his 19 points, eight blocks, four assists, and four steals in another no-relief job for CEU.
Kurt Sunga chipped in 16 points and six rebounds, while Franz Diaz added 13 points, four assists and two rebounds for Scorpions.
Irven Palencia went berserk for the Saints, scattering eight of his team’s last 12 points for a 75-74 lead with 51.6 remaining.
After Guinitaran’s basket, St. Clare tried to turn things around but Palencia bungled a short jumper off a steal and Junjie Hallare missed the potential game-winner at the buzzer.
“The boys hung tough and we kept our poise,” said Pumaren.
Palencia led the Saints with 18 points and eight steals, while Joshua Fontanilla got 14 points and four assists.
CEU (76) — Diouf 19, Guinitaran 18, Sunga 16, Diaz 13, Santos 8, Abastillas 2, Bernabe 0.
St. Clare (75) — Palencia 18, Fontanilla 14, Hallare 13, Rubio 10, Pare 8, Lunor 6, Fuentes 4, Ambuludto 2, Santos 0, Rivera 0.
Quarterscores: 15-9, 32-31, 54-48, 76-75
Cignal-Ateneo (105) — Kouame 19, Mi. Nieto 12, Mendoza 11, Ma. Nieto 10, Ravena 10, Belangel 9, Wong 9, Mamuyac 7, Navarro 6, Andrade 6, Credo 3, Daves 2, Go 1, Tio 0, Berjay 0.
City of Valencia Bukidnon-SSC-R (67) — Ilagan 24, Bulanadi 23, Capobres 8, Calma 8, Dela Cruz 2, Villapando 1, Tero 1, Sumoda 0, Bonleon 0, Desoyo 0, Are 0, Altamirano 0, Loristo 0, Calahat 0.
Quarterscores: 17-19, 34-35, 66-54, 105-67