CEDRIC De Joya has been a steady contributor for Batangas since the team joined the PBA D-League this season.
Playing second fiddle to top gunner Joseph Sedurifa, De Joya embraced and even thrived in his role for Batangas.
But with Sedurifa getting a call-up from mother team Meralco in the PBA, the 5-foot-5 playmaker was tasked to take the lead in their last three elimination round matches. And he did just that on Thursday.
The Calaca, Batangas native fired 31 points - including 11 in the final stretch - to lift the team to a 95-88 win over Gamboa Coffee Mix at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Batangas reached a milestone by making the quarterfinals in just their second conference, thanks in large part to De Joya's scoring as well as playmaking as he came up with eight assists.
But the unassuming leader deflected credit to the coaching staff led by Eric Gonzales and his teammates.
"Malaking kawalan sya (Sedurifa) samin," he said. "Pero ang sabi lang ng mga coaches at management samin, wag panghihinaan ng loob. Kahit nawala yung star namin, tulong-tulong lang kami lahat. Nagbunga naman."
Gonzales was happy to see De Joya step up to fill the void left by Sedurifa.
"Sa totoo lang, ang laki ng in-improve niya. Natutuwa ako na naiintindihan niya ako. Maganda kasi sa kanya he's responding, he's trying his best to maximize the teachings na binibigay ng program sa kanya," he said.
For now, De Joya is expected to take the same major role again when the Batanguenos take on league leader Flying V on August 1 in their final game.
"Nung nakapasok po ako dito, okay lang po sakin na kahit di magamit. Pero pag binigyan ng chance, bibigay ko yung best para mapakita na kahit maliit kaya ko po maglaro dito," he said.