MANILA, Philippines—Two of the best collegiate teams in the country begin their title showdown on Thursday, when Cignal-Ateneo and Centro Escolar University face off in Game 1 of the 2019 PBA D-League finals at FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Blue Eagles are well-rested, having swept Valencia City Bukidnon San Sebastian College Recoletos last week in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, the 8-man Scorpions are running on adrenaline after their team was hit hard with game-fixing allegations. Still, they survived St. Clare College Virtual Reality in 3 hard-fought games, punching their ticket to the finals with an 89-72 win in Game 3 Tuesday.
The finals tip off at 4 p.m.
Favored as Cignal-Ateneo is, the team knows it cannot take CEU lightly.
The Blue Eagles will lean on Ivorian center Ange Kouame, as well as Thirdy Ravena, Isaac Go, and brothers Matt and Mike Nieto to draw first blood.
This will be the Cignal franchise's third championship appearance, although this will be the first with the Ateneo core. The past two finals runs were with the San Beda squad.
On the other hand, CEU wants to end its Cinderella run on a high, with coach Derrick Pumaren not shying away from professing his pride at seeing how his players have fought throughout this campaign.
"For me, this team is already a champion. With all the adversities na nangyari, we still made it," he said.
Senegalese big man Maodo Malick Diouf will lead the charge as he'll be supported by Rich Guinitaran, Dave Bernabe, and Franz Diaz in the match.
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