THE moment Petron players stopped feeling sorry for the injury of June Mar Fajardo and started believing in themselves, a win became easier to get.
That was the assessment of reigning PBA MVP Arwind Santos, who saw how the Blaze Boosters got deflated after their star center suffered an MCL sprain on his knee just two days before their Christmas Day tussle with sister team Barangay Ginebra.
The Boosters predictably got smothered by Ginebra and its Twin Towers, 83-97, but managed to pick themselves up and trounce reigning Philippine Cup champion Talk 'N Text, 105-91, two days later.
“Basta naglaro kami," Santos said as he savored the team’s brief New Year break. "Kahit wala si June Mar, naniniwala pa rin kami sa isa’t isa at sa kakayahan namin.”
The 6-4 Santos has carried much of the load for the Petron frontline in Fajardo's absence, his averages of 16.9 points and 10.2 rebounds making him one of only four players averaging in double-double this season.
But he has also gotten a lot of help from the scrappy Yousef Taha and Doug Kramer, who is averaging 9.5 points and 12.0 rebounds in 28.5 minutes while trying to fill the giant gap left by Fajardo's per-game production of 15.5 points, 17.2 rebounds and 3.0 blocks.
There is still no official word on when Fajardo can return, although the Boosters can afford to wait with their next game against Barako Bull not happening until January 8 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Still, Santos is confident Petron, currently 8-2 (win-loss), can make a push for one of two twice-to-beat spots in the playoffs with or without Fajardo - so long as the Boosters keep believing in themselves.
“Pinapakita ng mga coaches namin sa video yung kakayahan namin kaya sa amin, tinanggal namin sa isip namin na wala si June Mar," he said. "So far, maganda naman ang tinatakbo ng team at nag-work naman.”