JERICHO Cruz may just be new at TnT Katropa, but that won’t stop him from standing up for his teammates.
It’s what exactly Cruz did after hitting and confronting Arwind Santos that sparked a late commotion in the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs between defending champion San Miguel and TnT on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The recently acquired guard by the Katropa was caught by the referee for striking Santos with his forearm shortly after Chris Ross scored on a transition basket in the final 1:20 of the game.
Cruz claimed Santos bumped him hard from behind just as he was about to pick up the basketball, an action which he said the San Miguel veteran had been doing to the Katropa all game long.
“Mahilig siyang mangbangga ng ganun. Ginawa niya rin yun kay Jayson (Castro), kay (RR) Pogoy, kay Ryan (Reyes). So I guess it’s my time na ipakita na hindi mo kami mapu-push ng ganito. Kaya binawian ko rin siya,” said Cruz.
‘It’s part of the game. But at least kahit paano kahit ginawa ko yun, alam niya rin na may mali siya.”
The incident happened with the Beermen already in full control of the match, 100-90. The defending champions went on to win, 106-93, to become the first team to advance in the semis and put an abrupt end to the Katropa’s campaign in the all-Filipino conference.
Santos was ejected from the game after incurring his second technical foul against Cruz, while Cruz was called for a flagrant foul
Cruz only had three points on 1-of-7 shooting after averaging 17.0 points in his first two games with the franchise since being acquired in a trade with Rain or Shine.
The outright elimination of TnT, its earliest since failing to advance in the playoffs of the 2015 Governors Cup, only fanned out what Santos did to him and the other Katropa, according to Cruz.
“Panalo na nga sila tapos maninira pa siya ng ganun,” the 27-year-old former Adamson standout said. “Para sa akin pag ginawa sa iyo, e di gawin mo rin sa kanila, tingnan mo kung ano ang mangyari.”
But he was quick to point out his action is only meant inside the court.
“Pero after ng game wala naman sa akin. Kung ano nangyari sa court, nangyari sa court. Not unless lapitan niya ako, of course I got to do something about it,” said Cruz, who admitted even calling Santos ‘kuya’ during the game.
He also wishes the Beermen good luck as they go deep into the playoffs in their quest for a record fourth straight Philippine Cup crown as well as to coach Leo Austria, his college mentor and godfather at his wedding.
As for him and the Katropa, Cruz expects the team to bounce back strong in the mid-season Commissioner’s Cup.
“Medyo sad nga kasi naputol yung two-game winning streak since I got here,” he said. “I’ll just go back and work hard at magpapa-kundisyon uli ako para next conference makabawi kami.”