ARWIND Santos admitted June Mar Fajardo’s surprised comeback was a big morale booster in San Miguel’s bid to retain its PBA Philippine Cup title.
The fit-again 6-foot-10 star center played for the first time in the best-of-seven finals and helped the Beermen win a second straight game in overtime against Alaska, 86-73, on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With Fajardo reclaiming his role as the team’s main threat at the post, Santos settled in his usual supporting role and delivered on both ends of the floor with a team-high 22 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, and three steals in an all-around game that was his best so far in the series.
The Beermen still trail in the finals, 2-3, but momentum is definitely on their side going into Game Six as triggered by their back-to-back victories and the return of Fajardo from a left knee injury that kept him out of the first three games of the series.
“Pag andiyan yung go-to-guy mo, kahit paano yung confidence mo nadadagdagan. Ganun si June Mar, malaking bagay talaga,” said Santos, who played 38 minutes in Game Five.
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The power forward out of Far Eastern University said the rest of the Beermen were actually surprised when Fajardo, 25, was fielded in with 56 seconds left in the opening period and the Beermen on top, 21-18.
And to think Fajardo didn’t really join the team in its scrimmage the day before other than doing some shooting drills and additional exercises intended to strengthen his injured knee.
“Na sorpresa rin kami,” said Santos. “Kahapon may ensayo kami andun siya, pero hindi siya sumabay sa walkthrough.”
“Kaya nung nakita namin (sa game), sabi ko ‘okay ha,’ he added. “Natutuwa kami, yung mga kasama ko nabuhayan dahil kahit paano yung inside threat namin nadagdagan.”