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    June Mar Fajardo shrugs off late benching as SMB completes comeback with reigning MVP on bench

    Jun 30, 2017
    June Mar Fajardo celebrates with the SMB bench after a crucial basket by Charles Rhodes. Jerome Ascano

    SAN Miguel Beer star June Mar Fajardo was reduced to a cheerleader in the fourth period while coach Leo Austria stuck to only five players to complete the come-from-behind 111-102 win over TnT Katropa in Game Five of the PBA Commissioner's Cup finals on Friday.

    But the 6-10 giant didn't mind taking the backseat as Charles Rodes, Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos, and Marcio Lassiter joined hands in putting the Beermen a win away from their first championship in the mid-season conference in 16 years.

    "Okay lang yun, panalo naman kami e," said Fajardo, who finished with a measly nine points.

    "Kailangan lang namin magtiwala sa sistema ni coach, yun yung game plan e. Nag-work naman," he added.

    [See Heated Finals duel spills over as SMB, TNT WAGs figure in post-game shouting match]

    Austria defended his move to bench the reigning three-time MVP, saying he just went with the lineup that clicked.

    "Everybody naman has a role on the team, even the bench. But in a game like this, I have to rely on those players na kailangan sa loob. Justified yung lima," said Austria, whose team trailed by as much as 15 points early.

    "Before we've been criticized na konti lang ang rotation but what happened tonight, justification sa mga ginagawa namin," he added. "Mismo sa player eh, sinasabi nila "coach I want to play, I want to play." Ayun binigay ko sa kanila. I'm happy to see them na talagang they refuse to lose."

    If Austria decides to give him limited minutes anew come Game Six, Fajardo said he won't complain as long as the Beermen emerge as champions.

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    [See San Miguel defuses TNT to move on verge of ending Commissioner's Cup title drought]

    "Kung kaya naman ni Charles diba, okay lang ako dun. Kahit magdasal lang ako sa bench," he said with a laugh.

    "Okay lang basta mag-champion kami."

    The Beermen go for the jugular in Game Six on Sunday, 6:30 p.m. also at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

    [See Arwind Santos turns back clock in lifting SMB anew from flat start]

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    June Mar Fajardo celebrates with the SMB bench after a crucial basket by Charles Rhodes. Jerome Ascano
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