RAYMOND Almazan is well aware he will have a tough match-up come Rain or Shine’s semifinal showdown with defending champion San Miguel in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup.
And it comes in the form of a 6-foot-10, 270-lb. giant by the name of June Mar Fajardo.
The lanky Elasto Painters center, obviously a few inches shorter and several pounds lighter than the San Miguel franchise player, is bracing for a grueling next two weeks, as he’s expected to get the unenviable task of trying to contain the league’s two-time MVP in the best-of-seven series.
Almazan's arduous task begins on Tuesday night when Game One of the semis gets underway at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Although Rain or Shine emerged winner in its lone encounter with the reigning champs in the eliminations, Almazan admitted being worn out having to take on Fajardo at the low blocks.
“Talagang naubos kami kay June Mar lalo na kaming big men,” he said, looking back at the team’s 99-84 win over the Beermen in which they held Fajardo to a modest 13 points – on 3-of-7 shooting – and 10 rebounds.
Almazan managed to do well against the Cebuano big man, coming through with 15 points and 10 rebounds as he alternated with ‘tag team’ partner Jewel Ponferrada in guarding Fajardo.
Ponferrada, getting extended minutes from coach Yeng Guiao, also did fairly well with eight points and seven rebounds.
“Malaking bagay talaga si Jewel sa amin. Ako lang ang legitimate center dito, kaya malaking bagay yung pagdating niya,” said Almazan, the former NCAA MVP out of Letran.
But with the semis an altogether different war, Almazan definitely knows of the adjustment Fajardo and the Beermen are going to do against them.
“Ciguro nakapag-adjust na rin sila,” he said. “Ang gagawin namin kung ano naman ang i-aadjust nila.”
And he has a strong message for Fajardo just before excusing himself from the interview.
“Mas didiinan pa namin kung ano ‘yung ginawa namin kay June Mar,” Almazan said.