Jericho Cruz wasted no time adjusting after moving from Rain or Shine, integrating seamlessly with TNT to catapult the Katropa to the Philippine Cup playoffs and in the process, earning the PBA Press Corps Player of the Week for the period of February 26 to March 4.
Traded by the Elastopainters to TNT in exchange for rookie Sidney Onqubere, Kris Rosales, and the Katropa’s 2018 first round pick, Cruz quickly proved he can make a big impact for his new team after averaging 17 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.0 steals in their victories over NLEX and Phoenix, respectively.
TNT faced a must-win game against NLEX at the close of its elimination-round assignment, but Cruz debuted with aplomb after scoring 17 points in a starter’s role, dished four assists, grabbed three rebounds, and two steals as the Katropa completed a 101-75 romp of the Road Warriors.
Phoenix’s narrow 104-100 win over GlobalPort and Ginebra’s thrilling 100-92 triple-overtime triumph against Rain or Shine last Friday knocked Blackwater out of the playoff race, while setting up TNT to a do-or-die duel with the Fuel Masters for the eighth and last playoff berth.
The Katropa then showed its readiness for the playoffs with Cruz collaborating with teammates Jayson Castro and Troy Rosario as the Katropa massacred Phoenix, 118-97 on Sunday in their knockout match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Cruz, the 2016 PBA Most Improved Player stuffed up the stats sheet with 17 points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block as TNT sealed the eighth and final playoff berth.
The 27-year-old Cruz beat his TNT teammates Castro, Rosario and Kelly Williams as well as Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar for the weekly citation.
TNT’s road to the all-Filipino championship though won’t be easy as it faces defending three-time Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Beeermen, who finished the elims with an 8-3, enjoy a twice-to-beat advantage against the Katropa.