PBA: Fajardo powers SMB to 2-1 lead over Meralco

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 07 2022 09:24 PM | Updated as of Aug 07 2022 10:38 PM

San Miguel center June Mar Fajardo in action against the Meralco Bolts. PBA Images.
San Miguel center June Mar Fajardo in action against the Meralco Bolts. PBA Images.

MANILA (UPDATED) - June Mar Fajardo churned out a double-double to power San Miguel Beer to a hard-earned 96-91 victory against the Meralco Bolts in Game 3 of their 2022 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series, Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.

Fajardo tallied 21 points and 16 rebounds on top of two blocks to help the Beermen take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series, as they bounced back from a tough loss in Game 3 last Friday. 

The Beermen also got a big game from CJ Perez, who torched Meralco for 26 points, while Jericho Cruz came off the bench for 15 points. 

San Miguel were made to sweat for the win, as Meralco stayed within striking distance throughout the fourth quarter. But Fajardo helped SMB gain some breathing room, scoring a clutch layup off a Cruz airball with 1:35 to go for a 90-84 spread.
 
He added two free throws with 1:11 left off a Raymar Jose foul, and the Bolts were unable to make up ground with their offense out of sorts all game long.

"Talagang napakahirap gawin 'yung nangyari kanina against Meralco. They are well-prepared," acknowledged SMB coach Leo Austria after the game. "Luckily, nakakuha kami ng double-digit [lead], but sandali lang 'yun. Nakakabalik agad sila eh."

"Because of the experience of the team, they know how to win games in this crucial game. But we're just lucky because Meralco is really a tough team to beat. Until the last minute, you cannot blink against this Meralco, because they are well-prepared," he stressed.

The Beermen led by 10 points, 83-73, off a split at the line by Fajardo with eight minutes to play in the game. But Meralco responded with five quick points, capped by an Allein Maliksi three-pointer, to make it a close game with still seven minutes to go.

Unfortunately for the Bolts, they were unable to get over the hump. Two free throws by Aaron Black made it a four-point game with two minutes left, 88-84, but what appeared to be a defensive stop for Meralco turned into a Fajardo bucket when the "Kraken" converted Cruz's airball into a clutch layup. 

Chris Newsome led Meralco with 16 points and Black finished with 15, while Cliff Hodge put up 12 points and 13 rebounds. The Bolts got little from Raymond Almazan, however, with the big man making just two of eight shots for four points in 16 minutes. 

The Scores:

SAN MIGUEL 96 – Perez 26, Fajardo 21, Cruz 15, Manuel 11, Ross 8, Tautuaa 8, Brondial 4, Lassiter 3, Enciso 0, Herndon 0

MERALCO 91 – Newsome 16, Maliksi 15, Black 15, Hodge 12, Jose 9, Banchero 8, Quinto 4, Almazan 4, Pasaol 2, Baclao 2

QUARTERS: 25-24, 46-42, 71-66, 96-91