Centro Escolar University dug deep and stunned Flying V, 72-67, Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig to oust the top seed and move on to the 2017 PBA D-League Foundation Cup Finals.
Orlan Wamar kept the Scorpions afloat with 17 points built of four treys, on top of two rebounds, while Art Aquino emerged as the biggest thorn in the side of the Thunder with his 13-point, 10-rebound performance.
JK Casiño also added 12 markers and five boards, JJ Manlangit had 11 points and nine rebounds, as Rod Ebondo took care of the dirty work with his 11 markers and 18 boards.
“I’m so proud of my players because they gave their best. That’s how we’re able to make it here,” said coach Yong Garcia, who made the Finals in his first conference at the helm for CEU.
The Scorpions became only the second fourth-seed to advance to the championship series, following the footsteps of Tanduay in the 2016 Foundation Cup.
CEU crawled back from a 13-point deficit, 25-12, and slowly chipped away the lead before finally zooming ahead 58-57, thanks to a Manlangit jumper at the 7:18 mark of the fourth quarter.
Hans Thiele had a chance to tie the game for Flying V at in the final minute, but he botched his shot from up-close, allowing Ebondo to seal the game with three freebies in the waning seconds of the game.
“I just told my players to stay focused and stick to our gameplan,” said Garcia.
The Scorpions will now prepare for Cignal HD in the best-of-three Finals, starting on Tuesday.
Leading Conference MVP candidate Jeron Teng bowed out with 19 points, six assists, and five rebounds, while Thiele got 13 markers and four boards in the exit.
CEU 72 – Wamar 19, Aquino 13, Casiño 12, Ebondo 11, Manlangit 11, Jeruta 4, Arim 2, Uri 2, Cruz 2, Fuentes 0.
FLYING V 67 – Teng 19, Thiele 13, Torres 8, Banal 7, Paredes 6, Salamat 6, Austria 3, Tampus 3, Cañada 2, Dionisio 0.
Quarters: 12-18, 32-39, 51-54, 72-67.