Judel Fuentes emerged as the hero for the Centro Escolar University Scorpions as they knocked off the Wangs Basketball-Letran Couriers, 79-75 Tuesday afternoon at the JCSGO Gym in Cubao.
Keanu Caballero found an open Fuentes on the left corner as the forward drained the go-ahead three with 2.9 seconds remaining to give the Scorpions a 78-75 lead to douse the fightback from the Couriers.
Bong Quinto then turned the ball over on his inbound pass on the other end, before Caballero put the icing on the cake with a split from the charity stripe.
“Ang sabi ko lang kay Keanu, create. When you drive, look for the open man and exactly in the right timing, na-open si Judel,” said coach Yong Garcia.
Orlan Wamar topscored for CEU 26 points as he shot 8-of-18 from downtown, including the game-tying triple in the last 1:27 to tie the game at 75.
Mishaal Veron contributed 13 markers and eight rebounds, while Oliver Arim had 13 points, six boards, and two assists as the Scorpions weathered the absence of Congolese big man Rod Ebondo, who is still nursing a back injury.
“I challenged my players. Sabi ko sa kanila, this is your time to step up and time to shine. Masaya naman ako na nagrespond sila,” said Garcia.
CEU kept itself composed in the end game despite losing an early 17-point lead, 36-19, early in the second period.
The Scorpions once again seized solo top spot at 8-2, moving a win away from clinching an outright semifinals berth.
Jerrick Balanza poured 25 points on a 10-of-14 shooting from the field for Wangs Basketball-Letran, and Quinto got 16 markers and 14 boards in the defeat.
The Couriers dropped to a three-way tie for fifth place at 5-4 with Gamboa-St. Clare and Zark’s-Lyceum.
CEU 79 — Wamar 26, Arim 13, Veron 13, Manlangit 7, Guinitaran 6, Caballero 5, Fuentes 5, Cruz 4, Aquino 0, Chan 0, Opiso 0, Saber 0, Uri 0.
Wangs-Letran 75 — Balanza 25, Quinto 16, Muyang 13, Calvo 9, Ambohot 4, Fajarito 4, Publico 4, Balagasay 0, Batiller 0, Mandreza 0, Taladua 0, Yu 0.
Quarterscores: 26-12, 45-32, 59-59, 79-75.