With the season on the line, Aaron Jeruta finally got over the hump and came up big for Cafe France.
The veteran guard came to the Bakers’ rescue, willing them in the fourth quarter as they rose back from the dead and came away with the 86-75 heist over Racal to force a winner-take-all affair in their 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup semifinals on Thursday.
“Aaron Jeruta stepped up. He’s the only veteran in the team and he was the missing link. This was his breakthrough game,” said coach Egay Macaraya of his 5-foot-8 playmaker.
With Jeruta manning the point, Cafe France orchestrated the deciding 16-4 run to stun the Tile Masters and beat them for the first time this conference.
He finished with 18 points, 10 coming in the fourth quarter, to go with six assists and four rebounds.
Jeruta admitted it was relief to finally be able to give significant contribution for the Bakers.
“I’m thankful for this game because I haven’t played well this season. I’m glad that coach still gave me a chance to show what I can do, and thank God, I was able to deliver,” he said.
Averaging a measly 2.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists for the conference, Jeruta’s breakout game couldn’t have come at a better time with lead guards Paul Desiderio and JK Casino struggling to put up points as they combined for just 17 markers on a 6-of-14 clip from the field.
“We just kept our heads up,” he said. “We tried to play the game possession-by-possession and we eventually closed in on them. Coach Egay kept on telling us to maintain our energy and effort, so that’s what we did in the second half.”
As admirable as Jeruta’s scintillating second half showing was, Macaraya knows that he needs more help from his wards for Cafe France to book a return trip to the Finals.
“I think I need everybody,” the mentor said. “Again, I can’t just rely on (Rod) Ebondo, and I’m fielding the veterans hoping that they will step up. Hopefully, we recover for Game 3.”