by Jonas Terrado
Cignal-Ateneo booked the first finals berth in the PBA D-League after completing a best-of-three semifinal sweep of City of Valencia-San Sebastian with a 100-73 victory at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The Blue Eagles leaned on their stifling defense to force the Golden Harvest to 25 turnovers to overcome a 12-point first half deficit and complete a lopsided win that put them in the best-of-five title series.
“Our expectation heading into the D-League was to gain some experience and win as many games as we can,” said Blue Eagles assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga. “But it’s a blessing that we’re entering the finals.”
Thirdy Ravena scored 19 points, Ange Kouame posted 12 points and SJ Belangel dished out six assists as the Tab Baldwin-mentored Cignal-Ateneo will face either Centro Escolar University or St. Clare-Virtual Reality in the finals.
St. Clare forced a deciding third game set Tuesday at the same venue after routing CEU, 84-50, in the second game. Mohammad Pare had 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks for the Saints.
RK Ilagan had 22 points, 11 rebounds and five assists but was left to do the heavy lifting for Valencia-San Sebastian after fellow star Allyn Bulanadi went down with an injured right shoulder.
Bulanadi got hurt barely two minutes after tipoff, spending the rest of the match on the bench wearing a sling.
Even without Bulanadi, the Golden Harvest led 26-12 late in the first only for the Blue Eagles to make a run in the second with Ravena and Belangel combining for 17 points.