ON a team featuring two deadly snipers, Jericho Cruz showed he can be bestowed the same status on Sunday when he sparked Rain or Shine’s late surge on the way to a 97-82 win over Phoenix in the PBA Philippine Cup.
After James Yap and Jeff Chan found their marks earlier, Cruz was on target in the final frame, knocking down three straight three-pointers over a 52-second stretch that gave the Elasto Painters the separation they needed to coast to the win.
Cruz admitted he’s motivated to make his outside shots on a consistent basis in the presence of the two veteran shooters.
“Syempre (ganado),” the third-year wingman said. “Nakikita ko sa kanila eh — they’re [two] of the best shooters in the league, Jeff and James di ba?”
“So in practice, I double my hard work,” he added. “Every day, I come in early and after practice I try to improve more on my shooting. Yun lang, para kahit papano ma-match ko lang shooting nila.”
Cruz buried five of his nine triples overall, but the three straight in the final frame proved to be the highlight.
“Siguro may time na nagulat (na pumasok tatlong sunod), pero kasi, araw-araw mo namang pinapractice ang shooting,” he said. “It’s my first time siguro nga na ganoon sa PBA, so I’m happy and excited at the same time, pero yun nga, work harder parin. Magawa uli sana.”
Cruz, who finished with a team-high 21 points on top of eight boards and two assists, even did the feat despite nursing a flu.
“Siguro coming into this game, ‘di ko ineexpect na bibigyan ako ni coach Caloy ng playing time kasi I was sick for three, four days na,” the former Adamson star said. “Pero ayun, yung trust niya sakin andun, kaya siguro pinaglaro niya ako.
“It paid off naman,” he added.