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Pumaren recalls time when his seven-man CEU squad beat Ateneo - the last team to do so to this day

by Niel Victor Masoy, May 19, 2020 9:05pm

Through 16 games in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) season 82 Men's basketball tournament, Ateneo de Manila University went spotless, sweeping the competition to capture its third straight crown.

The Blue Eagles continued their winning run in the recent Philippine Collegiate Championship League (PCCL), also winning all their (five) games to retain their title as the best collegiate basketball team in the country.

But before all these victories, there was a time when Ateneo lost and it takes us back to the date of June 19, 2019.

That day, the Blue Eagles were on the receiving end of a 77-74 upset from the Centro Escolar University Scorpions mentored by Derrick Pumaren in Game Two of the 2019 PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena.

Pumaren, who is now the head coach of the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers again, couldn't help but be proud of that epic win.

"Bragging rights ng CEU. I think we’re the last team to beat Ateneo in a tournament," he said in the Hoops Coaches International.

It's some kind of achievement that the Scorpions can certainly be proud of. After all, they went through a huge adversity just to get to the Finals.

Before it's Quarterfinals decider against the Go for Gold-CSB Scratchers, the CEU management axed its seven players, who allegedly committed game-fixing allegations in a University and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL) summer game.

That said, the Scorpions were down to just eight players. Pumaren, however, would opt to use just seven of those eight as they look to pull off a Cinderella run.

CEU started that awe-inspiring playoff run by taking down the Go for Gold-CSB squad bannered by Gab Banal, Justin Gutang, Santi Santillan, and Roosevelt Adams in the knockout Quarterfinals.

After that, the Scorpions outlasted the also title-contending St.Clare College Virtual Reality in three tough games in the Semifinals.

CEU's magic appeared to run out when Ateneo punished the short-handed squad by 55 points, 101-66, in Game One of the Finals. That only brought the Scorpions to greater heights, though.

CEU looked to tie the series in Game Two, but found itself down by 16 points, 38-22, in the second quarter. However, the seven-man crew of Rich Guinitaran, Franz Diaz, Jerome Santos, Dave Bernabe, Josh Abastillas, Kurt Sunga, and Malick Diouf (and the reserve Jordan Intic) showed immense resiliency.

The Scorpions stormed back and went on to lead by 10 points, 65-55, with 5:12 left in the final canto. That lead and the time remaining proved to be enough for CEU to hold on, stave off Ateneo's last ditch rally,  and eke out a pulsating 77-74 win.

Diouf led the way for the undermanned Scorpions, tallying 23 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, and two steals as Santos backstopped him with 28 markers and 10 boards.

"We’re able to redeem ourselves. We’re able to show a championship game. You have to give it to the boys. They fought for this game,” Pumaren told reporters post-game.

Eventually, the Blue Eagles led by Thirdy Ravena and Matt Nieto won games Three and Four to capture the title, but what the Scorpions did turned heads and even left Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin impressed.

"Sometimes that’s what sports is about - how we confront adversity and they’ve had more than their fair share," said Baldwin of CEU's adversity after his team won the tourney.

"I think what we have seen from them is exemplary - individually from their players, their coaching staff in terms of getting them ready to play. Today wasn’t their best game. In Game Three, it was very competitive. In Game Two, they taught us a lesson which is great. We picked those lessons.”

"Congratulations to Derrick. I know second place never feels good. If you don’t win the last game of the season, it doesn’t feel good but I’m very impressed with what they’ve accomplished.”

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