CJ PEREZ was given the green light by Columbian coach Johnedel Cardel to take over Friday’s debut game against San Miguel in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup.
He didn't disappoint.
The top overall pick in the last PBA draft had a debut to remember, finishing with a team-high 26 points in the Dyip's stunning 124-118 win over the powerhouse Beermen on Friday night at the Cuneta Astrodome.
“Credit to all my players, to the veterans, and ‘yung pagstep-up in CJ in the second half,” said Cardel after Columbian's first win over the Beermen in an all-Filipino game in franchise history. “Pinush ko sya eh.”
The former Lyceum standout was sluggish in the first half, scoring just two points. But he came back to score 24 in the second half, including 13 in the pivotal fourth period.
“He was very tight nung una. Talagang nanggigil siya,” Cardel said. “Pero I told him lahat ng kumpiyansa, ibibigay ko sa 'yo. Even though you are a rookie, sabi ko dalhin mo itong team na ‘to. Kilala ko ‘yung bata, nakikita ko na siya since amateur days sa LPU."
Perez blamed rookie jitters for his poor start.
“First half kasi, pagdating ko ng dugout at pagtapak ko sa court, na-excite ako masyado. Siguro ‘yung second half, nag-relax na ako at go with the flow na tinanggap ko na eto pala talaga ‘yung PBA. Sobrang happy na nakapag-adjust ako,” said Perez.
Perez said he doesn’t want to take all the credit for the victory, saying his teammates were just as instrumental in the Dyip breakthrough.
“Hindi naman dahil sa akin lang kasi first half to second half, maganda ‘yung communication namin ng team. ‘Yung effort namin sa defense at siyempre ‘yung tulong ng mga coaches talaga, ‘yun ang key doon kasi hindi sila tumigil na i-motivate na kaya namin,” said the Pangasinense guard.
Perez hopes the win will be a sign of things for the perennial cellar-dwellers.
“If magpe-perform kami ng maayos at dedepensa kami, malaki ang chance na maka-compete kami sa ibang teams,” said Perez.