MANILA, Philippines – The severely undermanned CEU Scorpions continued their magical run in the 2019 PBA D-League, handily disposing St Clare-Virtual Reality, 89-72, in a do-or-die semifinals Game 3 at the Ynares Sports Arena on Tuesday, June 11.
With the win, the gutsy Scorpions now arrange a best-of-five finals series with UAAP powerhouse Cignal-Ateneo starting on Thursday, June 13, at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Rich Guinitaran was money from the field when it mattered most, dropping 23 points and 7 rebounds on a 6-of-12 shooting with 2-of-3 coming from beyond the arc.
Three Scorpions clinched double-doubles led by Dave Bernabe’s 22 markers and 14 boards. Senegalese big man Malick Diouf churned out 14 points and 20 rebounds while Kurt Sunga got 12 points and dished 10 assists.
Despite surrendering a 7-0 run right from tipoff, CEU slowly clawed its way back in the game off the strength of great passes and offensive rebounds.
As a result, they took their first lead of the game at the start of the 3rd quarter, 40-39, courtesy of a Rich Guinitaran jumper. That kickstarted a 10-0 run before St Clare’s Joshua Fontanilla broke it up with a floater at the 6:52 mark, 41-48.
With momentum now on their side, CEU chipped in more hustle buckets throughout the frame and peaked with a 15-point lead, 67-52, off a pair of free throws by Diouf at the 20-second mark.
The Scorpions then took great care of their lead in the 4th quarter, as St Clare never got closer than 10 points, 65-75, off a split trip to the line by Fontanilla with 4:51 remaining.
Even as Diouf got tagged with a flagrant foul penalty 1 with just 3:11 left in regulation which forced him to sit out for 3 playing minutes, the rest of his teammates picked up the slack in the endgame.
Guinitaran drained one last long bomb at the 2:53 mark for the 83-68 lead as Bernabe put the finishing touches down the stretch.
Junjie Hallare paced St. Clare with 19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks while Fontanilla added 15 markers, 6 boards, 5 dimes and 5 steals in the losing effort.
CEU 89 – Guinitaran 23, Bernabe 22, Diouf 14, Sunga 12, Santos 8, Diaz 7, Abastillas 3.
St. Clare-Virtual Reality 72 – Hallare 19, Fontanilla 16, Pare 11, Lunor 7, Tiquia 7, Santos 6, Ambulodto 4, Rubio 2, Penaredondo 0.
Quarters: 16-21, 38-39, 67-52, 89-72.