Pass-first Mike Cortez shows he still has what it takes to light it up at age 35
Mike Cortez set a new PBA career high in scoring at age 35. Dante Peralta

MIKE Cortez picked the best time to be more aggressive on offense as he lifted Blackwater to a maiden postseason appearance in the PBA at the expense of Mahindra in the Philippine Cup on Sunday.

Having a conscious effort to set his teammates up throughout the conference to average a league-leading 5.1 assists coming into the game, the veteran playmaker took matters into his own hands this time as he delivered the biggest buckets down the stretch.

He wound up resetting his career-high to 30 points at age 35.

“I wasn’t even thinking about it (setting new career high),” Cortez insisted. “I was just trying to win. We were all out there trying to win and if it was my turn to score, then it was my turn.”

“I’ve been passing a lot this conference, getting my teammates into rhythm, but tonight, it was just falling for me,” he added.

[See Blackwater beats Mahindra, seals first-ever trip to PBA playoffs]

It proves that Cortez is finally fitting perfectly into the squad after getting traded from Meralco in the offseason.

“It took me a while to find my place in the rotation and find my game here,” the six-foot guard said. “I’ve had a roller-coaster conference and I just stayed focused and kept working hard in practice and it finally paid off.”

“It’s always a surprise when you get traded,” he continued. “At Meralco, I thought we built a good core group and I thought they were going to build around that, so when I got traded, it caught me off guard.”

“But I finally found a home in Blackwater now, so I’m looking forward to future games and conferences with them.”

And he wants to set a good example to young guns Carlo Lastimosa and Poy Erram.

“I just got to show them why I’ve been in the league so long,” the 13-year pro said.

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