Fajardo returns as Petron seeks tie at top vs Barako
MANILA, Philippines — June Mar Fajardo returns after a two-week absence as Petron Blaze hopes to forge a tie for the lead with Barangay Ginebra in the PLDT MyDSL Philippine Cup.
With their 6-foot-10 cornerstone healthy again, the Boosters slug it out with Barako Bull Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, seeking to further heat up the race for the top two playoff berths.
After being knocked off their perch following two straight losses—Fajardo missed out the second because of a swollen right knee— the Boosters seek a second consecutive victory in the 8 p.m. contest with the Energy, who are in dire need of a win to stay within the playoffs’ magic circle.
Fajardo has been given a clean bill of health by team doctors and will be the main problem for Barako Bull in the middle. With an 8-2 record, the Boosters can tie the idle Gin Kings with a win.
Rain or Shine and Talk ‘N Text are also in the mix with the Tropang Texters seeking to enhance their own chances against lowly Air21 in the 5:45 p.m. curtain-raiser.
Finishing 1-2 carries a huge advantage in the first round of the playoffs, as they would need to win just once over Nos. 8 and 7, respectively, to make the Final Four, where they will be better rested.
An upset win would give the Energy momentary fifth spot and an even chance of making the quarterfinals, while a loss would drop them to ninth spot and out of the playoff picture heading into the last two weeks of eliminations.
Fajardo paces the Best Player of the Conference derby with averages of close to 16 points and a league-best 17-plus rebounds a night—numbers that will certainly help the Boosters’ cause against the veterans-laden Barako Bull squad.
Arwind Santos, the reigning MVP, and backcourt men Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz are the others expected to play major minutes for the Boosters, who opened up with a 7-0 record and were the tournament leaders most of the way.
Losses to Rain or Shine and then Ginebra on Christmas Day allowed the Gin Kings to wrest No. 1 spot, but the setback the crowd-darlings took at the hands of the San Mig Coffee Mixers last Sunday has given Petron the chance to tie for top spot today.