PBA Commissioner’s Cup

Cruz provides offensive jolt as San Miguel zeroes in on record-extending PBA title

Delfin Dioquino

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Cruz provides offensive jolt as San Miguel zeroes in on record-extending PBA title

WAXING HOT. Jericho Cruz in action for the San Miguel Beermen in the 2023-24 PBA Commissioner's Cup.

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Jericho Cruz takes a bigger offensive role and Simon Enciso steps up as a surprise starter as San Miguel gains a 3-2 lead over Magnolia in the PBA Commissioner's Cup finals

MANILA, Philippines – A few tweaks here and there and San Miguel regained not just its fine offensive form but also the upper hand in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals.

Executing the necessary adjustments, the Beermen grabbed a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and zeroed in on the championship after a 108-98 win over Magnolia in Game 5 at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, February 11.

Jericho Cruz taking a bigger offensive role and Simon Enciso stepping up as a surprise starter proved key for San Miguel as it breached the century mark after being limited to an average of 82.5 points in the last two games.

Waxing hot from outside, Cruz drained eight three-pointers and finished with a playoff career-high 30 points on top of 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals to help the Beermen move on the cusp of a record-extending 29th title.

Cruz saved the best for last, burying four treys in the fourth quarter that allowed San Miguel to build a lead big enough to hold off the pesky Hotshots.

Magnolia got within striking distance at 75-82 before Cruz – who sank just four three-pointers in the first four games combined – hit back-to-back triples for an 88-75 cushion.

And when the Hotshots threatened another comeback and cut their deficit to a single possession, 96-99, Cruz hit his final trey with under a minute left to seal the deal for the Beermen.

“I’m so happy that I played well and we also won. It feels like I’m on cloud nine,” said Cruz in a mix of Filipino and English. “But the job is not finished yet. Back to the drawing board.”

Enciso also rose to the occasion with a conference-high 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists, setting the tone in the win by scattering 12 points in the first half to help San Miguel mount a 48-41 lead.

Benched in Games 2 and 4 and logging just eight minutes in the finals prior to Game 5, Enciso made the most out of his 30 minutes on the court by going 5-of-9 from beyond the arc as the Beermen made 16 triples overall.

San Miguel sank just 15 three-pointers combined in Games 3 and 4.

Bennie Boatwright backstopped Cruz with 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists, while June Mar Fajardo put up 18 points and 15 rebounds despite dealing with calf issues.

Tyler Bey starred for Magnolia with 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals, but those went down the drain as the Hotshots stare at elimination going into Game 6 on Wednesday, February 14, at the same venue.

Jio Jalalon and Ian Sangalang had 17 and 15 points, respectively, in the losing effort.

The Scores

San Miguel 108 – Cruz 30, Boatwright 21, Fajardo 18, Enciso 15, Trollano 10, Perez 8, Lassiter 2, Tautuaa 2, Ross 2, Brondial 0.

Magnolia 98 – Bey 34, Jalalon 17, Sangalang 15, Lee 12, Dionisio 6, Abueva 5, Barroca 4, Dela Rosa 3, Laput 2, Reavis 0, Tratter 0.

Quarters: 25-18, 48-41, 76-68, 108-98.

– Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.