HE swore his teammates were always looking for him the last time around. He was, afterall, one of main reasons for San Miguel Beer’s domination in the past few conferences in the PBA.
That’s how vital June Mar Fajardo is to the Beermen, and the 5-time most valuable player awardee felt he was obliged just when nothing else was working for the league’s winningest ballclub.
Fajardo cut loose with 22 points, 10 of them in the third quarter when he sparked a 12-to-nothing run eventually led the Beermen to a confidence-boosting 106-101 win over Talk ‘N Text last Sunday which levelled their PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-7 series into two games apiece.
The Beermen as a result generated crucial momentum from that win in Game 4 rich in highlight plays, drama and physicality.
“Binibigyan nila ako ng kumpiyansa, kaya kailangan suklian ko yung tiwala nila,” said Fajardo. “Hinahanap ako ng mga teammates ko. Kahit nagmimintis ako, pero hinahanap pa rin nila ako.”
Fajardo actually scored 27 points when the Beermen lost in Game 3, 115-105, but his presence was felt more in their big Game 4 rebound as he was there to steer San Miguel out of harm’s way by firing the points that mattered most.
“June Mar was able to play comfortably inside and that’s what we need from him,” said SMB coach Leo Austria. “The players understand what made us a great team in the past few years.”
Fajardo will thus necessarily be a marked man now as the Beermen and the KaTropa break the standoff at 7 p.m. today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A close and intense battle is well in the offing as the winner here will gain a twice-to-beat edge in the hotly-contested series.
“We just have to play harder and tougher both on offense and defense,” said TNT coach Bong Ravena.
The Beermen are looking for a repeat of their series win over the same team they defeated during the finals of the same conference in 2017. They are gunning for their 27th title in their 42nd finals stint.
The KaTropa on the other hand are seeking to clinch their first title in four years, or since winning the same conference in 2015 at the expense of Rain or Shine.