PBA D-League

Gate-crashing CEU spoils projected La Salle-San Beda D-League finals

Rob Andrew Dongiapon

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Gate-crashing CEU spoils projected La Salle-San Beda D-League finals

STABILIZER. CEU guard Franz Diaz goes for a layup against San Beda in the D-League semifinals.


Veteran guard Franz Diaz and the CEU Scorpions complete a semifinal upset of NCAA champion San Beda, spoiling the anticipated PBA D-League title showdown between the Red Lions and UAAP king La Salle Green Archers

MANILA, Philippines – CEU turned to its ever-reliable guard to complete an upset of NCAA champion San Beda and book a PBA D-League finals berth. 

Heady guard Franz Diaz took charge as the CEU Scorpions dismantled the Marinerong Pilipino-San Beda Red Lions, 78-56, in the winner-take-all Game 3 of the Aspirants’ Cup semifinals at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig, Thursday night, May 2. 

“If we need somebody to stabilize our group, Franz is always there for us,“ said CEU head coach Jeff Perlas of Diaz as the Scorpions advanced to their first conference finals since 2019. 

“He is our no-brainer choice when we need someone [to rely on].”

Diaz posted a team-high 21 points and 4 assists to lead a CEU team that has beaten the Red Lions thrice in four games this season. 

The win propelled the Scorpions to a best-of-three title duel against reigning UAAP and D-League champion De La Salle Green Archers.

“Now that we are in the finals, you can easily call us the gate-crashers,” said Perlas. “Many perhaps expected a San Beda versus La Salle [duel] in the finals, but luckily we gate-crashed it.”

La Salle defeated CEU by 28 points, 89-61, in the classification round, although the Scorpions played without Diaz and Santos in the loss. 

Game 1 of the finals series will be on Monday, May 6, at the FilOil EcoOil Centre in San Juan. 

The Scorpions last reached the finals in 2019, where they bowed to then-UAAP titlist Ateneo Blue Eagles.

Diaz, along with teammate Jerome Santos, were still rookies during that finals stint, playing in the support cast of a squad then-bannered by UAAP champion Malick Diouf.  

“I got emotional as I realized that,” said the 24-year-old Diaz. “It’s just about winning games for me, honestly. I just want to keep playing and improving in CEU as much as I can.”

“For me, it’s just doing everything I can for my team. No excuses always,” he added. 

CEU’s foreign-student athlete Abdul-Wahab Olusesi added 15 points and 28 rebounds, while Daniel Marcelo chipped in 15 markers. 

“It’s really a big morale-booster not just for the players but also for the entire CEU community,” Perlas said of their finals-clinching upset of San Beda.

The Scorpions led by as many as 22 points, but had to ward off San Beda’s second-half rally after Jomel Puno dropped 15 of his 23 markers in the third and fourth quarters. 

However, Diaz sealed CEU’s fate, scoring on a layup to stretch the lead to 15 in the final two minutes before dishing an assist for a Jayson Puray triple to secure the finals ticket. – Rappler.com

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