File photo of FEU's Carl Cruz in action. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Veteran forward Carl Bryan Cruz has flown under the radar for much of the season, but earned a share of the spotlight on Sunday after hitting crucial shots for Far Eastern University (FEU) in their game against National University (NU).
It was Cruz who hit a baseline jump shot with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 65-all and eventually send it to overtime. It was also Cruz who hit two crucial jumpers in the overtime period that eventually led to FEU's 74-70 win.
"Actually, hindi ako nag-expect ng opensa," said Cruz, who scored seven of his nine points in the final minute of regulation and in overtime.
"Pero nagko-collapse kila (Mac) Belo, kila Mike (Tolomia) 'yung mga defenders," he added. "Blessing na lang siguro na open ako, at nashu-shoot ko naman."
"Thankful ako na na-shoot. Masarap sa feeling."
Cruz was among the players who were hailed by FEU coach Nash Racela for being the Tamaraws' "unsung heroes" this season, a group that also includes forward Roger Pogoy and guard Achie Inigo.
"Maybe if you look at the stats, the numbers won't really show, but the intangibles, talagang binibigay nila," Racela said of his less-heralded players. "Not only those players who are playing, but even the guys coming off the bench."
"The little contributions from everybody, in the end, it will help," added the coach.
Cruz said it was a function of the unpredictability of this season's FEU squad, which is now playing without star guards RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo.
"Nawala 'yung mga main men namin, so unpredictable 'yung team namin," Cruz said. "Hindi alam ng mga kalaban kung sino mags-step up sa amin."
"'Yun lang, masaya ako kasi umiikot 'yung bola at anybody, any time, pwede mag-step up," he added.