by Jonas Terrado
Rich Guinitaran scored a layup with 13.7 seconds left to give shorthanded Centro Escolar University a thrilling 76-75 victory over St. Clare-Virtual Reality, the Scorpions moving a win away of a finals berth in the PBA D-League at Paco Arena in Manila.
Guinitaran’s go-ahead basket off an outlet pass by Kurt Russelle Sunga saved the Scorpions from the jaws of defeat after allowing the Saints to take the lead on Irven Palencia’s layup with under a minute remaining.
Maodo Malick Diouf set a new league record with 33 rebounds while adding 19 points and eight blocks as CEU kept its winning ways despite being reduced to a seven-man roster following game-fixing allegations against several of its players.
“It’s been a torture for us but they’re playing with their hearts out there,” said CEU coach Derrick Pumaren, who tries to finish off St. Clare in Game 2 of the best-of-three series set Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Cignal-Ateneo also moved a step closer toward a berth in the best-of-five title series after routing City of Valencia-San Sebastian, 105-67, in the second game.
The Blue Eagles outscored the Golden Harvest, 14-2, at the end of the third to turn a 52-all tie into a 66-54 lead.
Ivorian center Ange Kouame frustrated Valencia in the paint of his way to 19 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks.
“Coach Tab (Baldwin) wanted us to put emphasis on our defense the way we want them to play because there were times that we were playing individually in the first half,” said Cignal assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.