SAN Miguel need not only to double but triple its effort if it is to fill the giant void left vacant by injured star June Mar Fajardo heading to the finals of the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup.
Back-up big man Gabby Espinas said Fajardo's injury is definitely a big blow to the team’s bid to retain its title against old rival Alaska, and believes the Beermen bench has to deliver and cover up the kind of numbers they’re expected to lose without the 6-foot-10 slotman.
“Kailangan mag step-up hindi lang doble kundi triple pa. Alam naman natin yung nagagawa na isang June Mar Fajardo sa team namin,” said the former Rookie-MVP of the NCAA out of Philippine Christian University.
“Hindi naman kayang punuan lang ng isang player yun.”
Espinas already showed he’s up to the task the moment Fajardo went out with a twisted knee eight minutes left in the third quarter of Game Six of the semifinals against Rain or Shine Friday night.
The 6-foot-4 power forward came off the bench and scored eight in the period, sparking a big San Miguel run that saw SMB storm back from a 15-point deficit and finally take the upperhand at 52-51.
Espinas finished with nine points, a rebound, and a block shot in 10 minutes of play as the Beermen made it back to the all-Filipino finals.
“Siyempre excited,” said the 34-year-old Espinas of playing for a championship again. “ Kasi ang hirap makapunta rito. Eto yung pinag-papraktisan namin araw-araw. Halos walang pahinga sa ensayo para lang dito.”
For the second straight conference, too, Espinas will be facing his former ballclub Alaska in the finals since being dealt to San Miguel in a four-team, six-player trade midway last season.
Unlike in his first meeting against the Aces during the Governors Cup title series which the Beermen won, 4-0, the native of Olongapo City said this one is less emotional.
“Player lang ako, gagawin ko lang 'yung part ko, yung trabaho ko,” he said.