Jericho Cruz blocks out Ginebra noise to help San Miguel

San Miguel Beermen Jericho Cruz

San Miguel Beermen’s Jericho Cruz delivers in Game 3 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals against Ginebra. –MARLO CUETO/

MANILA, Philippines—In a game where the stakes are at their highest, San Miguel’s Jericho Cruz blocked out the noise.

In front of 15,126 electric fans—with the majority supporting the Gin Kings—Cruz locked in and silenced “Ginebra” chants with thunderous buckets that sucked the life out of Mall of Asia Arena.

Playing against one of the biggest fan bases in the PBA, Cruz scattered 17 points on a blistering 63 percent field goal shooting clip to help the Beermen sweep the Gin Kings and reach the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals.

Instead of listening to the raucous crowd and being rattled in the process, Cruz kept his composure and sank bucket after bucket to fuel San Miguel to the 94-91 victory.

“For me, I didn’t even think about those. I was just thinking about the win. I didn’t think about their fans or whoever was cheering for them. My mindset was just to win the game and move forward to the Finals,” said the seasoned guard.

“But that [Ginebra] crowd… It’s one of the best crowds in the Philippines and the PBA, right? But when you play, you don’t even notice that.”

It was a long time coming for Cruz to catch fire for the Beermen.

In Game 1, the PBA veteran scored six. Then, when he expected to improve from that lackluster game, Cruz dropped only four points in the penultimate game of the series.

But he managed to get over the hump, thanks to coach Jorge Gallent’s trust.

“I just want to thank coach Jorge for the opportunity that he’s giving me on the court. I’ve been playing badly for the last two games. It’s a good thing that we’re winning but for me, I don’t want to have bad games so it’s a good thing that we still won,” Cruz said.

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“Coming into this game, even at the half, we all talked, especially CRoss (Chris Ross), he brought up that we played lazy and played like it was a tune-up game so we talked and said we have to give it all and think it’s our last game.”

But Sunday wouldn’t be the Beermen’s final hurrah. Now, San Miguel has a chance to take that crown as they await either Magnolia or Phoenix in the title round.