MANILA, Philippines—There was simply no stopping San Miguel center June Mar Fajardo on Tuesday, as the reigning PBA Most Valuable Player towed the Beermen past TNT in the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals.
Fajardo made mincemeat of every defender thrown at him by TNT, finishing with 35 points on an efficient 15-of-19 shooting clip. He also grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked two shots to power San Miguel to a 106-93 victory.
He set the tone by scoring 12 points in the opening period, and had 22 points by halftime while making nine of his first 11 attempts.
"Binibigyan nila ako ng bola," said Fajardo after the game. "Kailangan kong maka-score sa ilalim, para lumuwag 'yung depensa ng kalaban sa itaas. 'Yun ang nagawa namin."
Indeed, the rest of the Beermen joined the scoring parade in the second half. Marcio Lassiter ended the third period with a personal 5-0 run that pushed SMB ahead, 77-72. In the fourth period, it was Arwind Santos' turn to wax hot, as he scored 10 of his 15 points in the payoff period, including back-to-back 3-pointers that helped San Miguel douse the KaTropa's rally.
"Credit sa teammates ko kasi nag-step up kaming lahat," said Fajardo.
"Kailangan naming manalo din. 'Pag natalo kami, parang medyo mahihirapan kami kasi mapupunta yung momentum sa kabila.
The big man's performance was dedicated to San Miguel coach Leo Austria, whose wife had gone through a kidney transplant earlier in the day.
"Malungkot siya kasi 'yung asawa niya, inoperahan," said Fajardo of his coach. "Hindi 'yun ganoon kadali para sa kanya."
Austria said: "I have to give credit to the boys, especially June Mar Fajardo. He was so focused in this game."
The head coach believes that Fajardo's dominant showing against TNT bodes well not just for their on-going playoff campaign, but also for the big man's upcoming stints in the national team.
"I told him before na you're not preparing only for our team; you have to prepare also for your future games in Gilas. And I'm so happy to see him na he's preparing hard because Gilas, the national team is always in his mind," Austria explained.
For now, Fajardo and the Beermen have some time to rest. They don't have a semifinal opponent yet, with Ginebra and Rain or Shine still contesting the spot in a best-of-3 series.
"Kailangan lang namin magpahinga, gamitin ng maayos 'yung pahinga, at maging ready sa semis," said Fajardo.
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