CJ Perez is full of excitement now that he can finally experience the playoffs as San Miguel secured a slot in the 2021 Honda PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals.
The third-year guard could not hide his glee with the personal milestone after suffering heartbreaks and disappointments during his first two years in the league. Back then he played with the Terrafirma franchise, who picked him first overall in 2019.
“Excited na ako makapaglaro sa playoffs,” said the Hong Kong-born cager.
“First time ko makapaglaro ng playoffs dito sa PBA.”
Perez never made it past the elimination round during his stay with the Dyip. Still, they seriously vied for a playoff spot in each of the three conferences in the 2019 season, where they amassed an 11-22 record.
The team looked ready to reach the next round for the first since 2016 in last year’s bubble play in Clark, but Terrafirma only won once in 11 games.
Thus, the elation on the part of the former NCAA Most Valuable Player to finally reach the playoffs with his new team.
“It’s a matter of effort and focus pagdating sa playoffs. ‘Yun lang talaga nasa isip ko ngayon,” said Perez, who arrived to San Miguel via trade last January. “And very thankful ako nagtitiwala teammates and coaches ko sa akin.”
The Beermen qualified for the quarters by way of a 110-80 rout of Phoenix Super LPG Friday. And leading the way was Perez himself.
He had 24 points, alongside five rebounds and four assists off the bench, taking charge as SMB lost Terrence Romeo to an achilles injury.
“Siyempre yung tiwala nila coach, mga coaching staff. Yung mga veterans, pinupush nila ako na laruin ang laro ko,” he said of his outing.
But while he looks forward to setting foot on the playoffs, Perez still has his sights locked in on their last two games of the eliminations. And that includes Sunday’s match versus another title favorite in the Magnolia Hotshots.
The Beermen plan to sustain their ways in facing the defensive-minded crew, who are coming off a thrilling 90-89 win over NorthPort earlier.
“Siyempre, ‘yung details pa rin sa game and ‘yung preparation namin. Siyempre ‘yung tiwala namin sa isa’t isa. Alam niyo naman ‘yung team namin. Loaded siya pero kung ‘di ka magtitiwala sa isa’t isa, mahihirapan kami,” he said.
“And siyempre, lahat ng team pinaghahandaan team ng San Miguel. Sustain effort, defense, and chemistry, mas palalimin pa.”