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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Perez proves he’s Best Player of the Conference

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On Valentine’s Day, the San Miguel Beermen showed to the world, why they are loved by many.

Staring at a 13-point deficit in the closing minutes, the Beermen got their acts together and launched a late rally, en route to winning their 29th championship.

And CJ Perez took a lot of credit for the role he played on Wednesday night in the 48th Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup Finals at the Araneta Coliseum.

Perez went on to finish with 28 points for the Beermen, to go with one of two crucial triples in the game, a step-back three-pointer in the last 48 seconds.

Perez’s triple with Chris Ross allowed the Beermen to finally overcome a 13-point deficit and move ahead at 103-99.

His actions not only earned Perez the Best Player of the Conference earlier, but the Finals’ MVP accolade as well.

“CJ’s a great player. He plays defense, he plays offense. Now, he just showed his worth this conference,” said SMB coach Jorge Gallent.

Later, in the final moments, Junemar Fajardo’s rebound off Perez’s missed free throw, and Jericho Cruz’s split charity with 1.6 seconds left sealed the deal for the Beermen.

Fajardo and Bennie Boatwright Jr. shot 19 points for the Beermen.

Gallent added that Perez became a better player during the conference.

“He did the things that he had to do exactly in this game. And this is what he is now. He is the best player of the conference, the finals’ MVP,” said Gallent, who claimed his first title as head coach of the Beermen.

They were behind 95-86 with less than five minutes to go, when the Beermen leaned on Perez, Cruz and Chris Ross.

The three spearheaded a 17-4 run for a 103-99 lead with 48 seconds left.

“They just didn’t give up. They just showed how composed they are. Even when we were down 9, 10, they didn’t panic. They played in the flow and stepped up their defense, and good things happen when you play defense,” said Gallent.

Perez had two missed free throws with 9.6 seconds left.

That was when Magnolia’s Aris Dionisio hit a triple as the Hotshots stayed close, 102-103, with 25 ticks left.

But Cruz split his charities in the final second, allowing the Beermen to end the series in their favor.

Gallent had an argument during the game with Perez for his awful first half performance — four points in the first quarter and scoreless in the second.

But Perez bounced back with 24 points in the second half.

“Siyempre, nag-aargue kami. But we’re not arguing para sa sarili lang namin. Sinasabi lang niya sa amin kung ano ang gagawin ko. Pero, ganu’n talaga ‘pag sa pamilya. Para kaming mag-tatay na nag-aaway. Pero, sumusunod pa rin. I always cherish those moments,” said Perez.

Gallent scolded Perez for his hesitation in taking shots in the first half. In the next two quarters, Perez just took advantage of his scoring opportunities.

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