It could’ve been a different story.
CJ Perez lamented missing a crucial free throw in the dying moments of San Miguel’s Game Six clash versus Meralco in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup semis Sunday night, believing that making it could’ve given his side a better chance.
The young star was given three shots with 8.3 seconds left after being fouled by Allein Maliksi upon pulling the trigger from the left corner, giving the Beermen an opportunity to tie the game as they were staring at a 93-90 deficit.
He only made two.
The Bolts did not let up afterwards, with Aaron Black splitting his own pair of freebies to push their lead to 94-92. A perfect trip of his to the line a few seconds later sealed the win, giving the MVP ball club another day to fight.
“Nasa isip ko, papasok ‘yun talaga. Breaks of the game. Malaking chance sana kung na-shoot ko ‘yung pangalawa,” Perez told Tiebreaker Times moments after their 96-92 defeat at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
It wasn’t just that miss which hurt Perez a lot, though. The third-year swingman out of Lyceum rued San Miguel’s failure as a whole to protect the 10-point lead they established with about four minutes left in the game.
Yes, the Beermen were just mere minutes away from returning to the Finals after three years, but their foes spoiled those plans with Black leading the way as he scored the last 11 points of a 16-2 finishing rally.
“‘Yun nga, lamang kami ng 10 points, hindi namin na-protektahan ng maayos. Hindi kami nakadepensa ng maayos kaya sila nakadikit,” said Perez, who finished with a series-low 13 points on 17 attempts.
The former two-time scoring champion, though, said that it will serve as a lesson for the entire SMB heading into Game Seven on Wednesday.
“Masakit, pero ang kagandahan naman nito, may Game Seven pa,” said Perez.
“Sobrang laking lesson sa amin ‘to. Alam naman natin ang Meralco, hindi nila ibibigay ng madali. So Game Seven, kailangan namin mag-prepare.”
The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.