By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
When it rains, it pours.
Seeking to deliver a bounce-back performance after receiving an automatic one-game suspension due to his five technical fouls, veteran scorer Jericho Cruz didn’t disappoint and paid off the trust of his coaches during the pivotal Game 5 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals last February 11, 2024, held at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
With the PBA finals series tied at 2-2, Cruz played his best game in the championship stage so far after erupting for 30 big points in 30 minutes of action.
Cruz’s stellar shooting performance saved San Miguel against the Magnolia Chicken Timplados Hotshots and helped them move a win away from clinching the PBA Commissioner’s Cup championship trophy.
The spitfire guard went unconscious from the three-point line and shot an efficient 8/14 from downtown while also tallying eight rebounds and four assists.
Coming off the bench for the Beermen, Cruz immediately let his presence felt after draining two three-pointers and a long perimeter shot to help San Miguel take a 25-16 advantage after the first 12 minutes of action.
However, it was in the most crucial stretch of the fourth quarter that Cruz weaved his magic for the Beermen.
When Magnolia made a run to trim their double-digit deficit, Cruz played a major spoiler after hitting the biggest three-pointer for the Beermen with only 54.3 seconds left in the game.
San Miguel needed a basket to fend off Magnolia’s huge comeback when they got back to within three points, 99-96. Cruz then stepped up to the challenge and buried a trey from the right corner to extend the Beermen’s lead to six points, 102-96.
After Cruz’s demoralizing three-pointer, Magnolia began to collapse and committed two costly turnovers in just a span of five seconds.
CJ Perez and Chris Ross then delivered the goods for San Miguel after scoring back-to-back breakaway layups to increase their lead to 10 points, 108-98, with only 17 seconds left in the game.
Bennie Boatwright backstopped Cruz with 21 points and a perfect 8/8 shooting from the free throw line while June Mar Fajardo added 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Magnolia will look to force a winner-take-all Game 7 against the Beermen on February 14, 2024, to be held at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.