ANTIPOLO – As he emerged from the dugout, June Mar Fajardo showed to reporters a handful of red scratch marks on his left arm that signified the heightened physicality of play these days in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The physicality was evident on Sunday night when San Miguel Beer had a tough time dealing with Magnolia’s pressure defense early on before finally finding a way to grind out a hard-earned 77-76 win on Sunday night.
Fajardo expects the physicality and competition to intensify entering the crucial stretch of the eliminations.
“Posible yan kasi sobrang dikit lang ng standings,” the four-time MVP said. “Kailangan talaga makakuha ng panalo pagdating sa playoffs. Kailangan din magpakundisyon kasi grabe yung physicality. Kailangan kundisyon lagi para ‘di basta mapagod.”
The suffocating defense held the Beermen to 24-of-77 shooting for a dismal 31.3 percent from the field – lower than the Hotshots’ 37.1%.
But SMB hit the shots that counted the most, none bigger than Chico Lanete’s go-ahead triple with a minute and 34 seconds left in the game – off an assist from Fajardo on a kickout pass from the post.
“Credit talaga sa mga pinasok ni coach na nag-step up, sila Chico, si Matt,” Fajardo said. “Ang ganda ng nilaro nila. Credit sa mga nasa bench. Buti nakuha namin yung panalo kasi importante yung game na ito sa amin.”
Fajardo still dominated with 19 points and 21 boards in almost 42 minutes, but stressed that he and the Beermen still miss the services of injured Alex Cabagnot – especially in crucial junctures.
“Yung leadership ni Alex din, yung pagke-create nya ng plays, nami-miss namin,” Fajardo said. “Pero buti naman nag-step up yung mga pinasok ni coach na kapalit ni Alex. Buti nakuha namin yung panalo. Kailangan na magpahinga kasi may game kami sa Friday.”