RICH Guinitaran scored the game-winning lay-up as seven-strong Centro Escolar University pulled off a 76-75 win over St. Clare College Virtual Reality Monday to draw first blood in the 2019 PBA D-League semifinals at Paco Arena in Manila.
The senior forward leaked out for the fastbreak and put the Scorpions up with 13.7 seconds remaining to stun the Saints and take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
"The boys hung tough and even though we still kept our poise," said a relieved coach Derrick Pumaren.
Game Two is set on Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Senegal's Maodo Malick Diouf had 19 points and a new rebounding record of 33 boards, on top of eight blocks, four assists and four steals as he once again played all 40 minutes.
Guinitaran had 18 points, six rebounds and two assists, Kurt Sunga got 16 points and six boards, and Franz Diaz had 13 points, four assists and two rebounds for the Scorpions.
Irven Palencia scored eight of St. Clare's last 12 points, putting the Saints ahead, 75-74, with 51.6 remaining. He also stole the ball from Diaz, but missed what could have been the dagger, freeing up Guinitaran for the game-tilting lay-up.
Junjie Hallare still had a shot to steal the win for the Saints, but missed a 3-point attempt as time expired.
"You have to give it to the boys. Though were just playing with just seven guys, I told them when we step inside the court, it's all about winning," said Pumaren. "We got to compete, give it our all, and when the buzzer starts, it's still gonna be five-on-five."
Palencia led the Saints with 18 points and eight steals, while backcourt partner Joshua Fontanilla had 14 points and four dimes.
CEU 76 - Diouf 19, Guinitaran 18, Sunga 16, Diaz 13, Santos 8, Abastillas 2, Bernabe 0
St. Clare 75 - Palencia 18, Fontanilla 14, Hallare 13, Rubio 10, Pare 8, Lunor 6, Fuentes 4, Ambuludto 2, Santos 0, Rivera 0.
Quarterscores: 15-9; 32-31; 54-48; 76-75.