CARL Bryan Cruz finally translated the gains from his impressive Gilas Pilipinas stints last year into a solid performance for Alaska in a 102-65 destruction of Kia on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-foot-4 Cruz impressed for Gilas in the Fiba Asia Cup and Southeast Asian Games last year but struggled to find the same success in the PBA. But he saw his string of mediocre games end against the Picanto as he scored 16 points and grabbed nine boards, his best showing in nearly a year since scoring 15 markers against Blackwater last March.
For the former Far Eastern University standout, he definitely missed being in moments like this one.
“Nami-miss ko yung ganitong situation. Maraming struggles na akong napagdaanan and nagpapasalamat lang ako kasi yung pasensya na binigay sakin ng coaching staff, super haba,” said Cruz.
“Finally nagkaroon ako ng breakout game. Nagpapasalamat lang ako kay Lord,” he added.
More than his breakout game, Cruz is just thankful that the Aces are finally back on track as they took their second straight win in the Philippine Cup. This comes after a hellish stretch dating back to the Governor’s Cup of last season where they just won three in their 13 games before their game against Meralco.
“Magandang start sa amin coming from 0-2. Ngayon two straight na kami. Basta sinabi lang sa amin ni coach Alex [Compton] e laruin lang namin yung tamang laro namin, let’s play yung Alaska system,” said Cruz.
“Wag namin idisrespect yung kabila, wag kaming gumawa ng anything fancy. Basta gawin lang namin yung fundamentals. So yun, fruit of our hard work lang,” he added.
For Cruz, the turnaround for Alaska was brought about not so much by a change of mentality, but more of the Aces rediscovering their defensive identity.
“Nagstep-up na lahat. Kasi yung una naming nakalaban, solid yun eh. Kumbaga nabigla kami. Pero ngayon, nakakapagadjust na kami,” Cruz continued.
“Naibalik na namin yung sistema na gusto namin ilaro, especially sa depensa namin.”