After three months of being on the sidelines due to a medial collateral ligament injury in his left knee, Jericho Cruz finally sniffed the court for the first time this 2017-18 Philippine Cup, Saturday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the return he had envisioned.
The Elasto Painters shockingly bowed to the often-ridiculed Kia Picanto, 94-98 — an unacceptable defeat knowing that the Picanto were winless in 16 games and last tasted a win on May 21, 2017 against Phoenix Fuel Masters, 122-121.
“Siyempre it’s sad. ‘Di namin in-expect. Pero siyempre the ball is round,” said Cruz, who scored just a point in 10 minutes, obviously disappointed with the result.
“Di ako masyadong makasalita masyado kasi sobrang sad.”
Heading into Saturday’s bout, the Elasto Painters were heavily favored to win, considering the way the Picanto lost their last three games. In their bouts against Phoenix, Magnolia, and Alaska, Kia lost an average of 35.7 points.
For the 27-year-old guard, he thinks that Rain or Shine’s overconfidence led to the embarrassing setback.
“Siguro sobrang kumpiyansa lang din namin kanina, kaya yun,” rued the four-year pro out of Adamson. “Sobrang sad namin ngayon, pero okay lang, bounce back na lang.
“Tomorrow’s gonna be another day to get better.”
Asked if Raymond Almazan’s ejection from the match due to a brawl with Eric Camson late in the first half affected the Elasto Painters, Cruz doesn’t believe so.
“‘Di naman, kasi lahat naman kami pwedeng mag-step up eh,” expressed the 6-foot-1 guard. “Pero having Raymond being able to play in the game na nandoon siya, yung presence of mind niya, malaking bagay siya eh.
“(Lalo na) With his defense, with his length, ‘di ba. Ayun,” he added.
But like what he said, the E-Painters will just look forward and try to grow from the loss. And the six-foot-one Cruz personally plans to do the same thing, as he aims to regain his game shape after recovering from his knee injury.
“It’s getting better na (left knee). [But] I’m not yet 100 percent at this stage,” he said.
“Siguro nasa 70 percent. Kulang pa ‘ko sa hangin.”