MANILA, Philippines – Centro Escolar University (CEU) became the first team to clinch a playoff spot in the 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup, after beating University of Perpetual Help, 90-85, on Tuesday at the JCSGO Gym in Cubao.
Rich Guinitaran shone for CEU, scoring 27 points on an efficient 11-of-15 clip to lead the Scorpions. Congolese big man Rod Ebondo was solid as usual, tallying a double-double of 22 points and 12 rebounds.
Joseph Manlangit, meanwhile, scored nine of his 16 points in the fourth quarter while grabbing seven rebounds.
It was CEU's fourth win in a row, hiking their record to 7-1.
But it was not a comfortable triumph for the Scorpions. They wasted a 16-point lead, 80-64, with 7:47 left in the game as the Altas roared all the way back and even took an 85-83 lead with 1:52 left to play in the game.
CEU leaned on its defense in the end game, as Orlan Wamar and Ebondo secured huge boards for their side before Keanu Caballero stopped Edgar Charcos in the final minute to salvage the win.
"Credit to my players dahil talagang kahit ang dami naming lapses, nag-focus sila," said CEU coach Yong Garcia.
With the Scorpions safely through to the playoffs, there are only five more spots remaining.
Prince Eze fired 23 points, 17 rebounds, and four blocks, while Charcos dropped 13 of his 22 markers in the payoff period, along with nine assists and five boards as the two of them carried the load for the Altas.
Perpetual suffered its third straight defeat to drop to a 2-5 card.
CEU 90 — Guinitaran 27, Ebondo 22, Manlangit 16, Fuentes 6, Aquino 5, Wamar 5, Cruz 4, Arim 3, Caballero 2, Opiso 0, Uri 0, Veron 0.
PERPETUAL 85 — Eze 23, Charcos 22, Aurin 14, Villanueva 9, Pido 5, Coronel 4, Mangalino 4, Peralta 4, Pascia 0, Tamayo 0.
Quarters: 23-19, 49-39, 72-60, 90-85.
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