San Miguel is one win away from a return trip to the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals, and though it had a number of capable closers to thank for, a neophyte silently and steadily stepped up to bring it closer to a place once familiar to the team.
Playing his first conference with the Beermen, quick-fire guard CJ Perez did not disappoint and served as the quiet but lethal operator for the team’s resurgence after being dethroned in the Clark bubble last season.
Perez, the two-time scoring champ from Terrafirma, averaged 17.0 points on 44 percent clip from three-range, 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.0 steals in the Beermen’s last two wins which ended dramatically behind the game-winners of veterans of Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot.
Behind his steady numbers, Perez, a native of Pangasinan, was adjudged the Cignal Play–PBA Press Corps Player of the Week for the period Sept. 22-26, bridging the tail-end of the eliminations and the start of the quarterfinals.
Perez is seeing action in his first playoffs appearance since emerging as the top pick in the 2018 draft.
The third-year pro top-scored in San Miguel’s 101-100 win over Alaska with 20 points, six rebounds, four steals, and three assists, including the clutch corner swing pass to Lassiter for the game-winning trey.
The win sealed the Beermen’s spot in the upper bracket of the standings at No. 4, putting themselves in prime position of reclaiming lost glory after an early quarterfinal exit in last year’s all-Filipino conference.
In the Beermen’s thrilling 88-87 win in Game 1 of the playoffs over fifth seed Northport behind Cabagnot’s clutch game-winner, Perez also made his mark with 14 points, six rebounds, and two assists as the moved on the cusp of a semifinals return.
Perez beat out teammates Mo Tautuaa, six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, and Chris Ross, Meralco’s Mac Belo, Alvin Pasaol, Allein Maliksi, and Bong Quinto for the weekly honor being handed out by the group regularly covering the PBA beat.
Magnolia’s Paul Lee and Ian Sangalang, Northport’s Robert Bolick, Barangay Ginebra’s Stanley Pringle and Christian Standhardinger were also considered for the weekly citation.
Overall, Perez stamped his class in the league anew as he landed at no. 6 in the race for the Best Player of the Conference award, averaging 17.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.4 steals at the end of the eliminations, while teaming with Ross in filling up the roles of the injured Cabagnot and Terrence Romeo at different stretches of the tournament.