MANILA, Philippines – Centro Escolar University (CEU) pulled off a 77-74 shocker over Cignal-Ateneo, to take Game 2 of the 2019 PBA D-League finals on Tuesday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Jerome Santos put up 28 points and 10 rebounds, proving to be the difference-maker for the still-undermanned Scorpions.
Senegalese big man Maodo Malick Diouf remained solid upfront with his 23 points, 16 boards, four steals, two dimes, and two blocks, as Rich Guinitaran chipped in 13 points, two assists, and two blocks.
The best-of-five finals series is now tied at one game apiece, with CEU recovering from a 101-66 clobbering in Game 1.
"I think we're able to redeem ourselves today. We're able to show up in the championship game," said coach Derrick Pumaren.
"What I told my players is more on motivation. I told them to believe in themselves, that we can be in the same league in Ateneo. I'm just happy to see the fight and us competing in this game," he added.
CEU surged to a 65-55 lead midway through the fourth quarter, before Ateneo responded with a 14-4 run that tied the game at 69 with two minutes to go.
The contest was decided on the charity stripe, as the Scorpions converted six of their eight free throws in the closing stretch. Franz Diaz buried the crucial shots with 10.1 seconds to go for a three-point cushion.
Guinitaran almost squandered the game with a turnover on his inbounds play, but Adrian Wong was whistled for a travelling violation that gave CEU the ball back.
Wong and SJ Belangel still had their shots to force overtime, but their triples rattled out of the basket as the buzzer sounded.
Wong carried the Blue Eagles with 17 points on a 4-of-7 clip from beyond the arc.
Ivorian slotman Ange Kouame nabbed a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks, as Belangel got 13 off the bench in the loss.
Cignal-Ateneo played without senior forward Isaac Go, who was under the weather.
Game 3 is on Thursday, still at Ynares Sports Arena.
CEU 77 -- Santos 28, Diouf 23, Guinitaran 13, Diaz 8, Bernabe 2, Abastillas 2, Sunga 1.
CIGNAL-ATENEO 74 -- Wong 17, Kouame 14, Belangel 13, Ravena 10, Andrade 6, Daves 4, Mi. Nieto 4, Mamuyac 4, Ma. Nieto 2, Tio 0, Navarro 0, Credo 0, Berjay 0.
Quarters: 16-13, 34-39, 53-52, 77-74.
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