CENTRO Escolar University pulled off a massive 77-74 Game Two shocker over Cignal-Ateneo to equalize the 2019 PBA D-League Finals Tuesday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Jerome Santos stepped up big for the Scorpions with 28 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists to support Senegalese big man Maodo Malick Diouf, who powered through with 23 points, 16 boards, four steals, two dimes, and two blocks to level the best-of-five championship at one game apiece.
"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."
Rich Guinitaran added 13 points, two assists, and two blocks in the big victory.
CEU went on a tear to start the fourth, taking a 65-55 lead with 5:12 remaining, but Cignal-Ateneo responded with a 14-4 blast to tie the game at 69 with two minutes left.
But the Scorpions proved to be poised from the free throw line, making six of their last eight, capped off by Franz Diaz canning a pair in the final 10.1 to extend the lead to three.
Adrian Wong and SJ Belangel still had chances to force overtime, but they both flubbed their treys as time expired.
CEU and Cignal-Ateneo go at it again on Thursday for Game Three, still at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Wong topped the Blue Eagles with 17 points on a 4-of-7 sniping from downtown, to go with three assists, and two rebounds.
Ange Kouame had 14 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks, while Belangel got 13 off the bench.
Cignal-Ateneo saw its 10-game win streak snapped, losing only its second game in the developmental ranks.
It was also the Blue Eagles coach Tab Baldwin's first taste of defeat in the PBA D-League, as he was out when the team fell to Ironcon-UST in the eliminations.
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.