CENTRO Escolar University dug deep and pulled off an 89-72 Game Three semifinal shocker to boot St. Clare College Virtual Reality Tuesday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig and progress to the 2019 PBA D-League Finals.
"We didn't expect to be here, to make it to the Finals, but the heart and the desire to win ng mga players, there's no substitute for that," said coach Derrick Pumaren.
The duo of Rich Guinitaran and Dave Bernabe stepped up big for the Scorpions, which had to deal with the absence of Senegalese big man Maodo Malick Diouf in the final three minutes of the game.
Guinitaran uncorked 23 points and seven rebounds, as well as hitting the big three that erected an 83-68 advantage with 2:49 left.
Bernabe contributed 16 of his 22 points in the second half, as well as hauling down 14 rebounds and five steals in the win.
Diouf had to sit the waning moments of the game after being whistled for a flagrant foul penalty one for his landing spot foul against Raymond Rubio at the 3:11 mark of the fourth.
But CEU's 20-4 third quarter tear was the x-factor in the game, changing the tide from a tight 38-39 halftime affair to a commanding 58-43 lead en route to taking the best-of-three series, two wins to one.
CEU now makes a quick pivot with the best-of-five Finals against Cignal-Ateneo already set on Thursday at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
"For me, this team is already a champion. With all the adversities na nangyari, we still made it," sighed Pumaren.
Junjie Hallare carried St. Clare with 19 points, while Joshua Fontanilla got 16 points, six rebounds, five assists, and five steals in the semis exit.
CEU 89 -- Guinitaran 23, Bernabe 22, Diouf 14, Sunga 12, Santos 8, Diaz 7, Abastillas 3.
ST. CLARE 72 -- Hallare 19, Fontanilla 16, Pare 11, Lunor 7, Tiquia 7, Santos 6, Ambulodto 4, Rubio 2, Penaredondo 0.
Quarters: 16-21, 38-39, 67-52, 89-72.