Mark Cruz is definitely the engine that keeps the Letran machine going given his uncanny playmaking ability, pesky defense, leadership, and veteran savvy. Put him out of the game, and the Knights will definitely have lesser chances of winning.
In the team’s hard-earned victory last night against the LPU Pirates, the Letran faithful held their breath after Cruz was accidentally elbowed in his nose bridge by LPU’s Allyn Malabanan with 15.2 ticks left in the opening quarter. That accidental hit shook up Cruz and was forced out of the game for further medical assistance
“Wala pang sinasabi at sabi lang ng doctor is dumugo lang,” Cruz said when asked about the official diagnosis of his injury. “Sabi niya kailangan ko ng check-up. Masakit at tumabingi talaga.”
The Pirates would clearly take advantage of the situation as they mounted a series of scoring runs against the league’s top team. Letran’s other floor general McJour Luib’s clash with foul trouble also shortened Letran’s rotation further and the team was forced to give extended minutes to Rey Nambatac, JP Calvo, and Kevin Racal in setting up Letran’s sets.
“Di ako alam kung makakabalik pa siya at sabi ko nga anybody can play,” Letran head coach Aldin Ayo told reporters about Letran playing sans Cruz. “Pero sabi ko nga, iba pa rin talaga ang isang Mark Cruz.”
Sensing that things could go out of hand if he decided to sit out the remainder of the game, Cruz would tough it out and checked back in the game during the 5:15 mark of the third quarter. Despite being limited due to problems with breathing, Cruz eventually lit a fire under Letran which helped them capture the lead once more and deny the Pirates leading to their seventh straight win of the season.
“Limited ang action ko kasi hindi ako makahinga. Hindi ko alam kung gusto na akong ipahinga ni Coach pero ako gusto ko na maglaro,” Cruz added. “Gusto kong makatulong sa team kahit anong mangyari at kahit masakit pa. Buti na lang pinagbigyan ako ni Coach.”
Now, Letran will have a lighter schedule ahead of them as they are set to take on the EAC Generals this coming Friday, 2:00 pm, at the FilOil Flying V Arena. A win would further solidify their lead atop the standings.
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