PBA: Despite Game 1 win, TNT yet to solve June Mar problem, says Reyes

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 04 2021 02:25 PM

San Miguel center June Mar Fajardo remains a big problem for Poy Erram and the TNT Tropang GIGA. PBA Media Bureau.
San Miguel center June Mar Fajardo remains a big problem for Poy Erram and the TNT Tropang GIGA. PBA Media Bureau.

They may have won Game 1 of their semifinals series against San Miguel Beer, but the TNT Tropang GIGA have yet to solve the problem posed by June Mar Fajardo.

Ahead of their best-of-seven semis series in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup, TNT head coach Chot Reyes recalled that San Miguel dominated in their lone elimination round meeting, taking an 83-67 triumph. 

In Game 1 of the semis, TNT nearly squandered a late lead and needed a massive defensive stop in the closing seconds to come away with an 89-88 victory and a 1-0 series lead.

"I think, (it's an) A for effort," said Reyes of his team's performance. "Certainly, a lot to improve on."

Rookie star Mikey Williams managed just seven points on 3-of-12 shooting but made up for it with eight rebounds and six assists. It was Roger Pogoy who led the way for TNT in scoring, with 23 points.

For San Miguel, CJ Perez fired 23 points, and Arwind Santos had 12. Fajardo, the league's six-time Most Valuable Player, had 13 points and 11 rebounds. He made six of 12 field goals and also committed six turnovers.

While Fajardo's numbers may not have been up to his usual standards -- the big man is still working his way back to full fitness after a leg injury last year -- Reyes made it clear that the "Kraken" remains as impactful as ever.

"You can never solve a problem like June Mar. The best we can do is just to limit (him)," said Reyes.

"He may have had only 13 points, but the others naman picked it up eh," the TNT coach pointed out. "I think San Miguel is constructed in such a way that they're so deep, they really don't need June Mar to score 20, 30, 40 points."

"They need June Mar to be their inside presence, and everyone else scores off him. Ganoon kalakas ang team na 'to eh."

Compounding TNT's woes is the absence of Kelly Williams for Game 1. Their big men, Dave Marcelo and Poy Erram, both got into foul trouble trying to handle Fajardo inside the paint, with Marcelo fouling out after 21 minutes of action.

"I don't think by any stretch that we have solved a problem, the June Mar Fajardo problem," Reyes stressed.

"All we've done is give ourselves a 1-0 lead, and the last time I checked, there's still three more wins that we have to get," he added.

Reyes minced no words about the challenge ahead of them. TNT had been dominant in the elimination round of the All-Filipino Conference, piling up a 10-1 record to take the top seed. Their lone loss, however, came at the hands of San Miguel, the very team they're playing in the semis. 

"It starts with the effort," said Reyes. "Playing with a lot of effort gives us a chance."

"If we don't give our best effort, wala kaming chance, 'di ba. So 'yun lang ang focus namin. Let's just give our best effort, and we'll see what happens," he added. "Ang lakas nitong kalaban nating 'to eh."