Feeling under the weather ahead of its Rain or Shine’s first game of the year, Jericho Cruz hoped that somehow, he will still be able to perform against Phoenix.
“Coming into this game, I didn’t expect coach Caloy to give me playing time because I was sick for four days,” Cruz said as he made his way out of the dugout in a thick jacket as he nursed his flu.
But on Sunday, Cruz did more than enough, providing the spark in the Elasto Painters’ 97-82 victory over the Fuel Masters.
The former Adamson Falcon caught fire in the second half, unloading 16 of his 21 points in the last two frames to lead Rain or Shine.
With him commanding the offense, the E-Painters jumped to a comfortable 21-point lead in the third, 66-45.
Cruz is thankful that Garcia had enough confidence in him to play even during his off days.
“Coach’s trust in me was there, so maybe that’s the reason why he still played me. I’m happy that it paid off.”
He’s also happy that his sacrifices in practice are slowly showing in his game with his improved sniping leading to his 5-of-9 shooting clip from threes in the night. That was none more evident than his three straight treys in a minute midway in the fourth as he quashed Phoenix’s belated rally and secure win number five for the Elasto Painters.
Cruz attributes his improved shooting to his teammates Jeff Chan and James Yap, whom he regards as “two of the best shooters in the league.”
“I can see it in them. So in practice, I double my hardwork. Everyday I come in early and after practice, I try to improve more on my shooting so that I can match them, too,” he said.
More than anything, Cruz is relieved that Rain or Shine was able to establish a bit of a breathing room as it sits at solo second with its 5-2 slate.
“It’s a big win for us. We may never know where we will be in the standings so this game is very important especially going against San Miguel,” he said.
The Elasto Painters face the Beermen on Friday.