Centro Escolar University stunned Cignal-Ateneo, 77-74, on Tuesday to even the PBA D-League championship series at one game apiece at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig,
Jerome Santos uncorked 28 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists to lead a determined effort by undermanned Scorpions.
Senegalese big man Maodo Malick Diouf was his usual best with 23 points, 16 boards, four steals, two dimes, and two blocks while Rich Guinitaran chipped in 13 points, two assists, and two blocks for CEU, which displayed tremendous poise at height of Ateneo's ferocious rally down the stretch.
"I think we're able to redeem ourselves today. We're able to show up in the championship game," said CEU coach Derrick Pumaren.
"What I told my players is more on motivation. I told them to believe in themselves, that we can be in the same league with Ateneo. I'm just happy to see them fight and us competing in this game."
After being blown away in Game One, CEU displayed some grit in Game Two and battled Ateneo every step of the way. The Scorpions took some momentum midway in fourth when it built a 65-55 advantage.
The Blue Eagles would tie the count at 69 two minutes later with a 14-4 barrage.
CEU held a 75-74 lead in the closing second but nearly squandered it when turned ball over with a bad inbound pass.
Ateneo had a chance to steal the victory but Thirdy Ravena, who was met by a double team at the right side of the basket, travelled.
Franz Diaz sank two free throws with 10.1 seconds left to give 77-74 lead before the Blue Eagles missed on three game tying 3-point attempts at the buzzer.
Adrian Wong showed ther way for the Blue Eagles with 17 points on a 4-of-7 clip from beyond the arc.
Ivorian slotman Ange Kouame nabbed a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks while SJ Belangel had 13 off the bench for Cignal-Ateneo.
Game Three is on Thursday also at the Ynares Sports Arena.
CEU 77 -- Santos 28, Diouf 23, Guinitaran 13, Diaz 8, Bernabe 2, Abastillas 2, Sunga 1.
CIGNAL-ATENEO 74 -- Wong 17, Kouame 14, Belangel 13, Ravena 10, Andrade 6, Daves 4, Mi. Nieto 4, Mamuyac 4, Ma. Nieto 2, Tio 0, Navarro 0, Credo 0, Berjay 0.
Quarters: 16-13, 34-39, 53-52, 77-74.