JUNE Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter look to steal the spotlight away from their respective imports as they rekindle their old rivalry when San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra collide on Wednesday in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
The gigantic matchup is set at 8 p.m. in their first meeting playing for their respective pro ballclubs. The two Cebuanos first faced off in April, when Slaughter suited up for the PBA All Stars and Fajardo saw action for Gilas Pilipinas.
The longtime rivals were supposed to meet as early as the Philippine Cup but Fajardo missed both meetings with Ginebra after suffering an MCL sprain on his knee in the All-Filipino conference and a sprained ankle in the Commissioner’s Cup.
The long wait is finally over and it seems nothing is going to stop Fajardo — an MVP candidate, and Slaughter — a Rookie of the Year candidate, from facing off this time.
They actually managed to meet in a tune-up match in the offseason before the season-ending conference.
Now, they meet officialy for the first time as their teams battle for playoff positioning, with Slaughter trying to keep the third-running Kings in the top four and Fajardo seeking to help the Beermen, tied with Air21 and Rain or Shine in fourth spot, stay where they are.
Slaughter, though, is playing down his personal matchup with Fajardo as his main focus is to help the Kings (4-2) avoid a losing streak as they try to gain a share of second spot with idle San Mig Super Coffee.
“We made it a rule that we wouldn’t lose two in a row,” said Slaughter, whose team absorbed only its second loss in six games with a 108-117 decision to Rain or Shine last Sunday. “These last three games are very crucial for us and we are looking to gain ground in the top four.”
It was only the second time the Kings allowed a team to score more than 100 points this conference as they had limited their opponents to just 80.2 points in their first five games before letting the Elasto Painters score 117 points — 27 on fastbreaks and 23 off turnovers.
“The key is our defense again,” Kings star point guard LA Tenorio said. “We can’t afford to give them easy baskets especially June Mar, Reggie Williams, and Arwind Santos. We have to be more aggressive defensively. Offensively, we need to be aggressive as well and lessen our turnovers.”
The Beermen (4-3) are also coming off a 74-90 loss to Meralco where their defense left much to be desired.
“Our focus is majorly on our defense, our transition defense, and we can’t allow easy points,” said Beermen coach Biboy Ravanes, whose squad allowed the Bolts to score 15 fastbreak points and 12 points off turnovers.
“I can only expect an intense and hard-fought battle,” Kings coach Jeff Cariaso said. “We need to play with a bigger sense of urgency.”
Earlier, Air21 takes on cellar-dwelling Globalport in the curtain raiser at 5:45 p.m.