Null
in

PBA: Fajardo heaves sigh of relief after beating Kings

SAN MIGUEL center June Mar Fajardo (center) fights off the double-team put up by Japeth Aguilar (left) and LA Tenorio in PBA semifinal action Saturday at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City. The Beermen won, 100-94. (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)
SAN MIGUEL center June Mar Fajardo (center) fights off the double-team put up by Japeth Aguilar (left) and LA Tenorio in PBA semifinal action Saturday at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City. The Beermen won, 100-94. (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)
SAN MIGUEL center June Mar Fajardo (center) fights off the double-team put up by Japeth Aguilar (left) and LA Tenorio in PBA semifinal action Saturday at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City. The Beermen won, 100-94. (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)
SAN MIGUEL center June Mar Fajardo (center) fights off the double-team put up by Japeth Aguilar (left) and LA Tenorio in PBA semifinal action Saturday at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City. The Beermen won, 100-94. (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

by Jonas Terrado

June Mar Fajardo put both of his hands on the back of his head immediately after the final buzzer sounded at the Cuneta Astrodome Saturday night, appearing to have felt a sense of relief when the San Miguel Beermen finally shut the door on Barangay Ginebra to secure a fourth straight PBA Philippine Cup Finals appearance.

Though the 4-1 semifinal series victory looked easy for the PBA’s model of excellence, Fajardo and the Beermen had to go through a tough challenge from the Kings, particularly in the series clincher where they overcame an early deficit before knocking down the key baskets down the stretch.

“Alam naman namin na di ganun kadali yun pero nagbunga yung pinaghirapan namin,” Fajardo, the affable man mountain, said while towering above reporters and a few fans outside of the team’s locker room.

The Beermen entered the playoffs of the season-opening conference expected to go through the proverbial eye, first against a TNT KaTropa side that was talented on paper despite barely making it as the eighth and final quarterfinalist.

San Miguel hurdled that obstacle, but the challenge got even tougher in Ginebra, the same team that ended the Beermen’s grand slam bid in last season’s Governors’ Cup quarters. But the team showcased their superiority, even changing the complexion of the series with in Game 2 with a stunning 104-102 victory following deficits of 15 in regulation and four in the last minute of the extension.

“It’s just a testament to our character and our team, how resilient we are and how much work we put in. Our team, from all our players have battled through everything and we don’t want to stop,” said Lassiter, who expects things to get even harder in the finals against either Magnolia or NLEX.

The Beermen beat both teams in the eliminations, almost barely. A late surge enabled them to see off the Road Warriors, 109-98, last Jan. 19 at the Cuneta Astrodome while escaping past the Hotshots, 77-76, despite being down big at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

“Wala namang madali eh. Di naman madali ang makapasok sa finals eh,” said Fajardo. “Di naman porket San Miguel kami, di naman porket nanalo kami ng tatlong championships sa All-Filipino e parang bibigay nila yung panalo sa amin. Kukunin namin panalo sa kanila.”

Lassiter was San Miguel’s best player of the series but coach Leo Austria needed timely efforts from Fajardo, Arwind Santos, the hobbling Chris Ross, and more importantly Alex Cabagnot – a forgotten man in the first three games – to eliminate a Ginebra team missing the services of Greg Slaughter due to an injury.

But the Beermen showed that they can be more than just a five-man wrecking crew as reserve Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, the Wakanda-gesturing forward, was active on both ends, including Game 5 with 14 points and eight rebounds.

“I’m thankful that I’m on this team now, and they really just let me do me,” said Ganuelas-Rosser. “They just give me confidence to go out and play my game, so it feels good to play like that on a close-out game like this.”

What do you think?

Written by Tempo Online

Author launches book today

Welcome to the ‘Club’