RANGED against three big men, San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo definitely won this battle of attrition against Barangay Ginebra.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo scored crucial baskets inside the final 24 seconds to outplay Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, and Billy Mamaril in the Beermen’s thrilling 79-77 win over the Kings in their PBA Philippine Cup showdown Sunday night before a full-house at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The league’s reigning Most Valuable Player, who turns 25 years old on Monday, collected 21 points and 15 rebounds and scored on a reverse lay-up off Slaughter with 24 seconds left to give the Beermen the lead for good, 74-72.
His split free throws in the final five seconds clinched San Miguel’s fifth win in five starts for solo second spot.
“Wala kang tulak kabigin,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria after the game which saw Ginebra fight back from as much as a 15-point deficit.
“June Mar really played well. Isa lang ang higante namin, e sila tatlo,” said the soft-spoken San Miguel coach referring to Slaughter, Aguilar, and Mamaril.
The seven-foot Slaughter, Fajardo’s rival in college during their days in the Cebu leagues, teamed up with the 6-foot-9 Aguilar to score 16 of the Kings’ 28 points in the final quarter to cap the league’s most popular ballclubs’ comeback from a 51-66 deficit.
Slaughter tied the game for the last time at 72-all with 40.7 seconds left
The Kings then had a chance to sent the game into overtime if not for the missed alley-oop attempt by Aguilar off a perfect feed from Slaughter in the final 14 seconds, leading to the split free throw by Fajardo.
Slaughter had a monster game for the Kings with 16 points and 18 rebounds, while Aguilar had 15 points and six rebounds.
“Both teams went to their big men in the end game and we’re fortunate enough to emerge victorious,” said Austria, who has nothing but good words for his prized big man in the end.
"June Mar is our go-to-guy and he will defintely continue to improve," stressed the San Miguel mentor.