CENTRO Escolar University and Cignal-Ateneo try to forge an unlikely PBA D-League championship series as they go for the clincher today at the Ynares Sports Arena.
Scorpions coach Derrick Pumaren admitted that this grinder of a schedule is already taking a toll on his seven-man crew, making his side all the more motivated to deliver the knockout punches on St. Clare-Virtual Reality in Game 2 slated at 4 p.m.
“Sana matapos na. It’s been a torture for us,” said Pumaren.
The 105-67 series-opening win over City of Valencia Bukidnon-SSC-R will not serve as a gauge for the Blue Eagles, especially that their opponents will not simply hand the Finals berth on a silver platter at 2 p.m.
“We’re not expecting an easy game. The final score doesn’t show the fight our opponents have and the fight they have left. We’ll prepare for them and they deserve the best cause they’re a good team,” said Cignal-Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.
CEU, which is eyeing its first Finals appearance since the 2017 Foundation Cup, simply refused to lose even in the aftermath of the game-fixing controversy that cost it seven of its key players.
“We have to maintain the competitiveness in ourselves, the heart, and the fight every time when we step there. We just got to come out and play the game,” said Pumaren.
One thing working in the Scorpions’ favor now is Senegalese slotman Malick Diouf who will be now in full power with Ramadan already over.
Diouf set a new PBA D-League record of 33 rebounds on top of his 19 points while fasting in last Monday’s series-opening 76-75 win.
But the Saints, who are aware of the golden opportunity they squandered, vowed to come back stronger to force a Game 3.
“Wala na kaming choice kundi manalo, kaya susubukan naming makuha yung laro sa Thursday,” said St. Clare coach Jinino Manansala.
The Golden Harvest will have a hard time controlling the Eagles’ Ivorian slotman Ange Kouame, as well as seniors Thirdy Ravena and brothers Matt and Mike Nieto.
Also, City of Valencia Bukidnon-SSC-R needs all the help it could get, as Allyn Bulanadi and RK Ilagan were the only ones who delivered in the semis opener.