Centro Escolar University (CEU) foiled a late rally to bag the first playoff berth in the Philippine Basketball Association Developmental League (PBA D-League) Aspirants’ Cup 2018 playoffs with a 90-85 win over the pesky University of Perpetual Help System DALTA on Tuesday at the JCSGO Gym in Quezon City.
The league-leading Scorpions fended off the Altas’ fightback in the endgame as they booked the first ticket to the playoffs with their seventh victory against a lone loss.
“Credits go to my players. Despite having many lapses, they focused on getting this game,” said CEU head coach Yong Garcia.
Rich Guinitaran fired 18 points in the second quarter en route to a 27-point explosion anchored on an efficient 11-of-15 shooting clip while Rod Ebondo tallied a double-double of 22 markers and 12 rebounds for the Scorpions.
Joseph Manlangit was the other double-digit scorer as the forward finished with 16 points highlighted by three triples.
Having secured a seat in the playoffs, the Mendiola-based cagers have no other route but to shoot for one of the top two spots that would send them straight to the semifinals.
Garcia though wanted his wards to stay focused on their remaining games in the elimination round.
“We are still not thinking of the playoffs. Our focus is one game at a time,” he said.
Riding on the hot hands of wingman Guinitaran, CEU was able to seize a 49-39 lead at the break.
Manlangit’s trey early in the final frame handed Garcia’s men a comfortable 80-64 cushion.
Perpetual Help, however, cruised to a furious 21-3 run ignited by Edgar Charcos and Prince Eze to snatch the advantage, 85-83, with 1:52 remaining.
Orlan Wamar hit a crucial basket before Art Patrick Aquino sank a free throw and Ebondo drained his charities for an 88-85 buffer.
With Perpetual looking for a game-ying three-pointer, Wamar intercepted the ball from Charcos, allowing Manlangit to seal the big win from the foul line.
Nigerian big man Eze drilled in 23 points and 17 rebounds while Charcos chipped in 22 markers on top of nine assists and five boards but their efforts were not enought to keep the Altas from absorbing their third straight loss and fifth overall.