Centro Escolar University had gritted their teeth and pulled off an 89-72 Game Three semifinal blitz to boot St. Clare College Virtual Reality Tuesday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig and progress to the 2019 PBA D-League Finals.
“We didn’t expect to be here, to make it to the Finals, but the heart and the desire to win from the players, there’s no substitute for that,” recalled coach Derrick Pumaren.
A duo of Rich Guinitaran and Dave Bernabe stepped up mightily for the Scorpions, which had to deal with the nonappearance of Senegalese big man Maodo Malick Diouf in the final three minutes of the game.
Guinitaran scored 23 points and seven rebounds, as well as making three that slated an 83-68 advantage with 2:49 left.
Bernabe gave his 16 of his 22 points in the second half, as well as storing 14 rebounds and five steals in the win.
Diouf had to sit out in the final moments of the game after being whistled for a flagrant foul penalty one for his landing spot foul against Raymond Rubio at the 3:11 mark of the fourth.
Still, CEU’s 20-4 third quarter leap was the x-factor in the game, changing the tide from a tight 38-39 halftime affair to a commanding 58-43 lead en route to taking the best-of-three series, two wins to one.
CEU now made a quick pivot with the best-of-five Finals against Cignal-Ateneo already set on Thursday at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
“For me, this team is already a champion. With all the adversities na nangyari, we still made it,” said Pumaren.
Junjie Hallare carried St. Clare with 19 points, while Joshua Fontanilla got 16 points, six rebounds, five assists, and five steals in the semis exit.