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Art Dela Cruz makes most of return to playoffs

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Tiebreaker Times Art Dela Cruz makes most of return to playoffs Basketball News PBA  Tim Cone PBA Season 44 Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Art dela Cruz 2019 PBA Philippine Cup
Photo from PBA Images

Since reaching the 2015 PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals with the Blackwater Elite, Art Dela Cruz has never played on the same stage.

That’s mainly because of the unfortunate injuries he suffered, including the Achilles tendon tear he incurred during Gilas Pilipinas’ preparations for the SEABA Championships early in 2017. He ended up sitting out almost two years.

Now, Dela Cruz is with the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, and he has finally reached the quarterfinals again – this time of the 2019 Philippine Cup. And he showed how much he missed it by playing according to the occasion.

The 26-year-old churned out his best game yet for the crowd darlings. He had 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting on top of three rebounds, two assists, and a steal off the bench to help the Gin Kings beat Magnolia Hotshots, 86-75.

Dela Cruz couldn’t be happier.

“First time ko kasi yung quarterfinals na big game, kaya malaking experience sa’kin to for a professional player.

“Mahalaga sa’kin yung makapag-step up sa laro na ‘to, especially na baguhan lang ako sa ganitong sitwasyon,” the second generation cager said.

But beyond his big game performance, the second-generation cager out of San Beda is more grateful that he has returned and that he can play just as he did before.

“Sobrang happy. Yung injuries ko before, na-surpass ko na,” said Dela Cruz, who’s currently averaging 5.9 points on 47 percent shooting along with 3.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 17.7 minutes this All-Filipino conference.

“We’re not surprised that he’s playing like this at all. And we think he’s only gonna get better and better and better,” lauded Ginebra head coach Tim Cone.

“He just has a really good feel for the game and he’s adapted his skills to be that type of player.”

Now, Dela Cruz hopes to continue playing at this level, so that he’ll be worth the wait for the storied franchise.

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“Si Coach Tim, nagtiis siya … One year and eight months na pinagtiyagaan ako na injured. Pero eto, nagbubunga na yung paghihintay nila. Hindi lang sa coach, especially sa players, fans, at management,” he said.

“Sana magtuluy-tuloy kasi ang hirap ng pinagdaanan ako as a person, as a player. Walang makakapaghintay nang ganun. Buti na lang bata pa ako as a PBA player kaya meron pang lifespan yung basketball career ko.”

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