SMB’s CJ Perez (PBA imaes)

By JONAS TERRADO

CJ Perez is looking forward to his first playoff appearance after San Miguel Beer secured a place in the quarterfinals of the PBA Philippine Cup.

Perez’s conference-high of 24 points with five rebounds and four assists helped the Beermen roll past the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters, 110-80, and clinch a spot in the final eight of the All-Filipino tourney.

“Excited ako na makapaglaro ng playoffs. First time ko na makapaglaro ng playoffs dito sa PBA,” Perez said after the game held Friday, Sept. 17 at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.

Playoff basketball has eluded Perez in his first two seasons in the league with the Columbian/Terrafirma franchise.

Drafted first overall by the Dyip in 2019, Perez emerged as the star of a team that always had an outside shot of barging into the quarters each conference.

He had averages of 21.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals in 44 career games with the Dyip, earning 2019 Rookie of the Year honors and the PBA Press Corps’ Scoring Champion for the past two seasons.

But an offseason trade to SMB in late-January not only gave Perez a clear shot to reach the playoffs, but possibly play a key role in the quest to regain possession of the Jun Bernardino Perpetual Trophy.

“It’s a matter of effort and focus pagdating sa playoffs,” Perez said after the Beermen improved to 6-3 for fourth place with the twice-to-beat advantage given to the top two teams after the eliminations still in play.

“Yun lang talaga yung nasa isip ko ngayon. Very thankful ako na nagtitiwala yung mga teammates ko and coaches sa akin,” added Perez, who will be tasked to be at least at par with his 16.6-point, 5.0-rebound, 1.6-assist and 1.1-steal numbers this conference.



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