THEY may have one less worry, but what about the rest?
Even with June Mar Fajardo possibly out, Alaska still finds itself in a daunting task of covering San Miguel Beer’s other stars as both squads face off anew in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup Finals starting with Game One on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“Very scary yung San Miguel because before kasi halos lahat nung load na kay June Mar,” Aces assistant coach Louie Alas said after practice on the eve of the series opener. “Ngayon, lahat sila gustong manalo. Lumabas lahat nung galing.”
The Beermen highlighted their depth in Game Six of their semifinal series against Rain or Shine on Friday night when Arwind Santos and Marcio Lassiter took more of the cudgels when Fajardo went down with a knee injury to close out the Elasto Painters, 90-82.
Chris Ross also played an all-around game, while Gabby Espinas and Yancy de Ocampo filled the void left by the injured Fajardo.
On defense, Alas believes the Beermen will play more like the Aces.
“Siguro yung adjustment na gagawin nila is yung depensa nila,” Alas said. “Before kasi, very passive defensively sila. Ine-expect ko ngayon baka maging aggressive, parang Alaska defense. Si June Mar nga yung anchor nila tapos mawawala, so mapipilitan silang um-extend ng depensa.”
Despite Fajardo’s possible absence, the Aces prepared on Saturday as if the 6-foot-11 San Miguel star was playing.
Still, Alas, who spoke in lieu of head coach Alex Compton as the American mentor had to pick up his kid, refused to install themselves as the favorites in the best-of-seven series.
“Hindi ko tinitingnan sa ganung sitwasyon (llamado),” Alas said. “Let’s say si Marcio, kung ganito lang yung effort niya, mado-doble yan. Si Arwind, nakita mo naman, very seldom mo makikita na umatake sa basket and I saw it last night.”
Alas said the Beermen have the advantage in championship experience and have tormented the Aces in all their two finals meetings in the last three conferences.
“If you will add lahat ng championship experience nila, siguro wala pa tayo sa kalahati,” Alas said, but was quick to add the Aces can compensate for the lack of experience the rest of the series.
“Game One lang sila may advantage sa atin, dahil yung mage-gain nating experience sa Game One, tuloy-tuloy na rin yung hanggang san makarating yung series.”