CEU's uprising against heavily favored Cignal-Ateneo was quelled, once and for all, in Game 4 of the 2019 PBA D-League Finals.
There, the Scorpions got waylaid, 66-98.
Still, the runners-up are nothing but proud of what they had done. "First of all, I would like to congratulate Ateneo. They were supposed taao win talaga and even at the start, they were the favored team," head coach Derrick Pumaren said.
He then continued, "We've accomplished a big accomplishment. In spite of an 8-man lineup and 7-man rotation, we still made it here."
Indeed, the fact that CEU, with eight players in the line-up and seven players in the regular rotation, even got to Game 4 was already a pleasant surprise. "We wanted to extend the series and keep giving a good fight, but the fatigue factor really got to us," the veteran coach said.
He then continued, "I just tried to push them, but hanggang doon na lang e. Wala nang maibibigay."
The Scorpions were down to half of their initial roster after they dismissed eight players due to alleged game-fixing at the end of the elimination round.
Still, they marched forward to the playoffs where they downed higher-seeded Go for Gold-CSB and St. Clare-Virtual Reality before facing off with the Blue Eagles in the five-game Finals.
And in the championship round, CEU pulled off the biggest upset of the season - stealing a 77-74 win from right under the nose of Cignal-Ateneo in Game 2.
Just for that alone, Coach Derrick said they will return to Mendiola with their heads held high. As he put it, "I didn't want them to be complacent dahil nakapasok kami sa Finals, but I told them na in my book, you're already a champion because you’ve done something incredible. We have nothing to be ashamed of because we overachieved."
He then continued, "Sa akin, champion na sila. I know Ateneo is a very good team, very well-coached, very well-disciplined. Take nothing away from them, pero we're CEU and we were able to steal a game."
With that, the Scorpions will be heading into the next conference of the PBA D-League with their confidence as high as it has ever been. "We were able to steal a game from Ateneo and we can use that as a springboard for the next conference. Hopefully, we'll have enough time to fill (out the rest of the roster)," their mentor said.
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