HIS name was pencilled in near the bottom of Alaska's box scores on Tuesday, yet Tony dela Cruz was the first player on Aces coach Alex Compton’s mind in the post-game conference of his team’s 89-75 win over Meralco in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
After all, the veteran forward, the only Alaska player who saw action and didn’t score, made a stellar defensive job on Bolts import Andre Emmett as well as provided intangibles not seen on the stats sheet.
Dela Cruz missed all his three shots, but registered five boards, two blocks, two assists, and one steal in 23 minutes, most of them spent guarding Emmett, who scored a game-high 28 points, but had to take 24 shots – making just seven – to reach his total.
“Obviously you want to shoot better, but you can make an impact on the game without even scoring a single point,” dela Cruz said. “I just wanted to go out there and try to get us extra possessions. I just wanted to win, whatever role I need to step in to play.
“Andre Emmett is a great talent and he’s going to score, so you can’t just have one guy guarding him. But you just want to help to win the game,” added the 36-year-old cager, who came in averaging just six minutes per game this conference, but saw extended playing time in the absence of injured Cyrus Baguio.
Compton was all praises for dela Cruz's splendid pitch-in job.
“He came in the fourth quarter and I couldn’t take him out,” Compton said of the Alaska skipper.
“If you have a veteran leader like that who’ll accept his role that sometimes he’s not going to play, sometimes he’ll play a little bit, and then in a crucial game he steps up and just really carried us defensively,” the American tactician added. “It’s just so nice to coach guys like that.
“That effort of Tony typified the effort of our whole team.”