Scorpions keep surprise run, sting Saints in rubber
MANILA, Philippines — The badly undermanned Centro Escolar University side extended its improbable run all the way to the finals following a huge 89-72 win over St. Clare College-Virtual Reality in the PBA D-League yesterday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Ace gunner Rich Guinitaran, the Game One hero, led the way anew for the Scorpions with 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists while back-up big man Dave Bernabe stepped up with a 22-point, 14-rebound and five-steal explosion as CEU overwhelmed St. Clare in their sudden death duel.
Bernabe’s biggest game of his career lessened the load on Senegalese slot man Maodo Malick Diouf who committed a critical flagrant foul penalty 1 infraction on St. Clare shooter Ray Rubio in the last 3:11 mark.
But CEU had already established a comfortable 80-67 lead when Diouf needed to sit out the rest of the game.
Guinitaran and Bernabe made back-to-back baskets to put on the finishing touches in yet another CEU miracle win.
“We didn’t expect to be here. Nobody expected us to be here in the finals. But the heart, the desire to win of my players... there’s no substitute for that,” said head coach Derrick Pumaren as the Scorpions arranged an unlikely best-of-five championship showdown with Cignal-Ateneo.
“It’s all about the heart, it’s all about the fight of my players,” Pumaren also said.
Despite sitting out early, Diouf finished with 14 points, 20 rebounds, two assists, two steals and five blocks while Kurt Sunga chipped in 12 markers and 10 dimes for the shorthanded Scorpions who banked on a 29-13 third-quarter barrage to take command, 67-52, entering the final frame.
The Saints, for their part, just could not capitalize on the crippled CEU crew despite the 19 and 16 points of Junjie Hallare and Joshua Fontanilla, respectively.
Malian center Mohamad Pare posted 11 markers, 15 dimes and three blocks in a wasted effort for the Saints.
The seven-man CEU team begins its title showdown with the heavy-favorite Cignal-Ateneo at 4 p.m. tomorrow at the same San Juan City playing arena.
CEU 89 – Guinitaran 23, Bernabe 22, Diouf 14, Sunga 12, Santos 8, Diaz 7, Abastillas 3.
ST. CLARE 72 – Hallare 19, Fontanilla 16, Pare 11, Lunor 7, Tiquia 7, Santos 6, Ambulodto 4, Rubio 2, Penaredondo 0.
Quarterscores: 16-21, 38-39, 67-52, 89-72