PENNY Estacio carried FEU-Diliman back to the Finals for the first time in three years, clipping Adamson, 78-65, in the stepladder semis of the UAAP Season 82 boys basketball tournament Friday at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The sweet-shooting guard fired 18 points, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals as the Baby Tamaraws arranged a titular duel against the National University-Nazareth School.
Estacio bannered FEU-Diliman's late second quarter pullaway, using an 11-0 spurt to grab a 43-28 lead just before the halftime break.
The Baby Falcons tried to mount a rally, cutting the lead down to seven, 52-45, but back-to-back treys from Vincent Saldua and John Rey Pasaol restored order and gave the Baby Tamaraws a 58-45 lead with 2:13 left in the third frame.
Defense eventually took the game home for FEU-Diliman, staving off Adamson's numerous tries in the payoff period.
"Katulad ng sinabi ko sa kanila before the game, hopefully huwag na kami maglaro sa Blue Eagle Gym," said coach Allan Albano, intent on taking full advantage of his side's twice-to-beat advantage as the two-seed.
Mark Padrones also stepped up for the Baby Tamaraws with 14 points and four boards, Jorick Bautista had 11 points, six rebounds, five steals, and three assists, and Cholo Anonuevo got nine points, 14 rebounds and three steals.
Mark Padrones makes a move down low against the Baby Falcons defense.
It was the first Finals appearance for FEU Diliman since it won the Season 79 crown back in 2017.
"Masaya kami na nakabalik kami sa Finals despite 11 players ang nag-graduate sa amin last year. Nagawa namin yung gameplan namin na i-stop si (Jake) Figueroa at (John) Erolon. Masaya ako na ginawa ng mga bata yung homework nila," said Albano.
Game One of the best-of-three championship series is on Friday.
Joshua Barcelona topscored for the Baby Falcons with a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Season MVP Jake Figueroa was held to just 11 points on a 1-of-6 clip from the field, on top of his seven rebounds, two dimes, and two blocks, as John Erolon only had seven points on a 1-of-12 field goal shooting in the defeat.
FEU-DILIMAN 78 -- Estacio 18, Padrones 14, Bautista 11, Anonuevo 9, Pasaol 8, Bagunu 6, Sleat 6, Saldua 5, Libago 1, Remogat 0.
ADAMSON 65 -- Barcelona 12, Figueroa 11, Quinal 10, Abdulla 8, Erolon 7, Guarino 5, Cosal 4, Dominguez 4, Hanapi 4.
Quarters: 24-17, 43-31, 62-51, 78-65.