by Jonas Terrado
Cignal-Ateneo finished off Centro Escolar University in emphatic fashion with a 98-66 victory to capture the PBA D-League title before a good-sized crowd at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Will Navarro scored 13 of his 15 points in the first quarter, leading the Blue Eagles’ early assault that secured their dominant performance in the PBA’s developmental tournament.
Ange Kouame had 18 points and 16 rebounds, Thirdy Ravena added 15 points, four rebounds and four steals and Matt Nieto dished out six assists for Cignal-Ateneo, which claimed the best-of-five series, 3-1.
The win gave coach Tab Baldwin and the Blue Eagles a significant boost before they start their quest for a third straight UAAP championship in September.
Baldwin’s Blue Eagles were hardly challenged during the tournament, topping the Aspirants Group by winning eight of nine matches.
Ateneo easily rolled past Chadao-Far Eastern University and City of Valencia-San Sebastian in the playoffs to arrange a title showdown with the Derrick Pumaren-mentored CEU.
The Blue Eagles took the first game, 101-66, but were given a humbling lesson in Game 2 when the Scorpions posted a stunning 77-74 triumph.
Learning from its mistakes, Cignal-Ateneo responded by routing CEU, 67-52, in the series’ third game to set up the clincher.
Rich Guinitaran finished with 20 points while Maodo Malick Diouf had 11 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three blocks for CEU.
CEU’s runner-up finish was already an achievement considering the Scorpions were reduced to eight uniformed players in the playoffs due to game-fixing allegations that hounded the team.
In advancing to the finals, the Scorpions overcame adversity by defeating Go for Gold-College of St. Benilde in the quarterfinals and St. Clare-Virtual Reality.