The Centro Escolar University Scorpions found the right antidote and solved the puzzle that was the Flying V Thunder, scoring a come-from-behind 72-67 win in Game 3 of their semifinals series on Thursday afternoon at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City to proceed to the 2017 Foundation Cup Finals.
Rod Ebondo fueled the Scorpions’ shocker of a win, making things happen for his side while still dominating the paint. The Congolese big man racked 11 points and 18 rebounds, none bigger than the three freebies he canned to ice the ballgame for his side.
Orlan Wamar was stupendous from the get-go, drilling four treys en route to his game-high 17 markers, while Art Aquino sustained his hot shooting from Game 2 to finish with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
But it was JJ Manlangit who stifled Flying V’s rallies, as he had six of his 11 markers in the closing frame, on top of nine rebounds. JK Casiño also shot 12 points, all from beyond the arc.
“I’m so proud sa mga players ko. Binigay nila yung best kaya umabot kami sa ganito,” said coach Yong Garcia, who has advanced to the Finals in his maiden conference since taking over from coach Egay Macaraya.
With the upset, CEU became only the second fourth-seed team to move on to the Finals, after Tanduay pulled off the feat in the 2016 Foundation Cup.
CEU recovered from an early flurry from the top seed, as they battled back from a 13-point deficit, 25-12, before ultimately grabbing a five-point lead, 69-64, with a pair of Manlangit freebies in the final 1:33.
But the Thunder refused to sink, slicing the deficit to just two, 69-67. They had a chance to tie the game in the final minute, but Hans Thiele was unable to drop his shot from close, as Ebondo sealed the game from the charity stripe.
“I just told my players to stay focused and stick to our gameplan,” said a jubilant Garcia.
Jeron Teng exited the campaign with 19 points, six assists, and five rebounds for Flying V, while Thiele got 13 markers and four boards in the losing effort.
The Scorpions will face Cignal HD in the best-of-three Finals on Tuesday.
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.
Quarterscores: 12-18, 32-39, 51-54, 72-67.