ROOKIE Jericho Cruz played like a veteran in the dying seconds, scoring Rain or Shine’s last four points in a thrilling 98-95 come-from-behind win over Alaska in the PBA Philippine Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The former Adamson Falcon drafted ninth overall by Rain or Shine scored on a follow-up off a free-throw miss by Jeff Chan then scored on a fastbreak to complete the team's fightback from a six-point deficit in the final three minutes.
“Special mention to Jericho Cruz. He played like a veteran,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao. “He made his free throws, he defended well and he made those baskets. It certainly made us look good drafting him.”
At 8-2 (win-loss), Rain or Shine can secure a semifinal berth with a win over Ginebra on Sunday.
The six-foot Cruz finished with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting. He scored 10 in the fourth quarter alone, putting the final touches to a fightback started by Paul Lee and Beau Belga.
Lee led the Elasto Painters with 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Belga finished with a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds in what is by far his best game for the conference.
Belga made back-to-back baskets off Eric Menk while Lee hit a three-pointer from way out when Rain or Shine came charging back from an 85-91 deficit in the endgame.
Alaska (8-3) finished the single-round eliminations with back-to-back losses, dimming its hopes ofmaking it to the semifinals outright.
Calvin Abueva led the Aces with 18 points and eight rebounds.