CENTRO Escolar University kept its flickering hopes alive, nipping Che’Lu Bar and Grill, 83-78 to force a decider in their 2018 PBA D-League Foundation Cup semifinals Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Rich Guinitaran drilled the go-ahead triple with 42.2 seconds remaining to put the Scorpions ahead, 79-76, before Orlan Wamar delivered the dagger with a pullup jumper with 16.7 ticks left to make it a five-point game, 81-76.
“That was our battlecry today. We’re not thinking of Tuesday, but we’re trying to stay alive. Isang daliri na lang, malalaglag na tayo. Bibitaw ba tayo? Either you die or you live and today, we refused to lose,” said acting coach Derrick Pumaren.
Guinitaran poured 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, to go with six rebounds, while Wamar also uncorked 14 of his 20 in the payoff period, on top of his five boards and four steals to send the best-of-three series to the distance.
Pierce Chan also got 10 in the CEU win.
The Scorpions almost squandered a golden opportunity after wastuing an 11-point lead, 67-56 at the 6:57 mark of the fourth as Jeff Viernes captained a stunning 12-0 run for the Revellers that gave them a 68-67 lead and set-up the frantic finish.
“We became tentative. We played not to lose,” lamented Pumaren, with that run proving to be Che’Lu’s last hurrah as CEU “manned up” in the endgame.
“The playoff is a man’s game and thats what we did. We stood our ground, took what they gave and fought.”
Viernes’ herculean 19-point effort in the fourth quarter went for naught as he finished with 25 points and four assists in the defeat.
Chris Bitoon added 14 points, but was ejected at the 7:01 mark of the fourth quarter for a flagrant foul penalty two on his hit on Wamar.
Game 3 is on Tuesday, with the winner facing Go for Gold in the best-of-five series.
CEU 83 – Guinitaran 20, Wamar 20, Chan 10, Ke. Caballero 6, Formento 6, Fuentes 6, Uri 5, Rojas 4, Ko. Caballero 2, Intic 2, Oloume 2.
CHE’LU BAR AND GRILL 78 – Viernes 25, Bitoon 14, Hernandez 12, Collado 9, Melano 7, Sta. Ana 5, Ruaya 4, Siruma 2, De Joya 0, Mallari 0, Taganas 0.
Quarters: 18-19, 35-29, 55-47, 83-78.