MANILA, Philippines – TNT guard Jericho Cruz believes his actions against San Miguel veteran Arwind Santos were justified, even if it led to his ejection with just 80 seconds left to play in their PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal game on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Cruz and Santos got into a near-skirmish at center court, with replays showing that the young guard gave the SMB forward a shove. But Cruz made it clear that he was just retaliating after seeing how Santos would push and bump his teammates in TNT.
"Kukuha lang ako ng bola, eh mahilig siyang mangbangga ng ganoon," said Cruz. "Ginawa niya rin 'yun sa point guard namin, kay Jayson (Castro), kay Ryan (Reyes), kay (Roger) Pogoy."
For Cruz, Santos was just adding salt to the wound with all his extra-curricular motions. After all, the Beermen were already in control of the game, 100-90, at that point. San Miguel eventually won, 106-93, ousting the KaTropa and advancing to the All-Filipino semifinals.
But Cruz believed that he had made his point to Santos and to the San Miguel team.
"Panalo na nga sila, tapos maninira pa siya ng ganoon? Walang bumabawi eh, so I guess it was my time na ipakita ko na hindi kami mapu-push over lang nang ganito," said Cruz. "Binawian ko din siya."
"Wala akong regrets sa ginawa ko," he stressed. "At least, kahit papaano, kahit ginawa ko 'yun, alam niya na may mali din siya, 'di ba?"
"Hindi lang tayo basta basta na itutulak ng ganoon, na ipu-pushover tayo."
It was quite the display for Cruz, who is playing in only his third game in a TNT uniform. The KaTropa acquired him late in the conference from Rain or Shine, in exchange for Sidney Onwubere, Kris Rosales, and a draft pick.
Cruz said he is determined to show that he will stand his ground for his new team, even if he has only been with the franchise for a couple of weeks.
"Hindi naman ako pinalaki ng nanay ko na mapu-push lang ng mga tao eh," he declared. "So para sa akin, 'pag ginawa sa 'yo, e 'di tingnan mo – gawin mo rin sa kanila, kung anong mangyari. 'Yun ang sa akin."
In the end, he still showed respect to San Miguel, particularly to coach Leo Austria, who was his head coach in Adamson University. "Sabi ko sa kaniya, congrats, good luck, sana manalo kayo ulit," said Cruz.
But he also fired a warning shot to the Beermen. "Congrats sa kanila," said Cruz. "Mas magaling sila ngayon."
"Para sa akin, bawi na lang siguro kami next conference," he added.
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