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Scramble on for PBA semis tickets

/ 04:33 AM December 18, 2015

FOR NOW, Alaska has found a way to buck June Mar Fajardo’s intimidating presence and numbers.

Fajardo again led the way for San Miguel Beer, with 43 points—only the second time a local player has notched a 40-point, 20-rebound game. But Alaska just kept increasing the game’s energy level by having Calvin Abueva, Vic Manuel and Chris Banchero tirelessly whirl around Fajardo and his teammates.

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The key to containing Fajardo is not just a double-team on the nimble and creative big man. It is when the double-team takes place which matters more. The other key is keeping a close watch on Fajardo’s teammates, notably Arwind Santos. Teams have gotten so preoccupied with the double-team on Fajardo that they forget to mark Santos, who is alert and athletic when left unchecked. He is a mean cutter to the basket and can score as well from the perimeter. More importantly, he can follow up Fajardo’s missed shots because teams do forget to stick a defensive body on him.

San Miguel simply ran out of gas in the end and fell, 103-97, on Wednesday, creating what will most likely be a logjam at the top of the Smart Bro Philippine Cup team standings between the Beermen, Alaska, and Rain or Shine. The top two finishers in the classification phase get a precious free ride to the semifinals and will await the end of what will be a fiercely fought quarterfinals involving eight teams.

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If there is a mad scramble at the top of the roost for prime positions, there’s also one at the bottom where three teams are trying to avoid missing the playoffs trip. Mahindra, Blackwater and the Star Hotshots are trying to win their remaining games to stay in the hunt for the 9th and 10th playoff spots. It could all really boil down to the final slot and the Mahindra-Blackwater game on Dec. 20.

The Meralco Bolts are already out of the picture, having won only once in 11 games. What has hurt Norman Black’s unit were four losses by margins of less than four points. Four or five wins would’ve put the Bolts in the middle of the standings.

The Bolts are generally a young team getting accustomed to playing together and, to a large extent, learning how to trust each other. Some jelling time is still needed for each player to be conscious of the strengths and tendencies of the others. Hopefully, the break and a really good import will change the fortunes of this six-year old franchise in the second conference.

GlobalPort should be a team to watch in the playoffs because of the contagious energy it brings to the PBA. The Terrence Romeo-Stanley Pringle 1-2 punch boosts a lineup of veterans aching to win a PBA title.

In a game against Mahindra, Romeo complimented Pringle’s game-long brilliance with a five-point cluster in overtime to turn around what looked like a clear win for the Enforcers.  Romeo hit his first triple after 13 previous misses and a scintillating drive that won the game.

The first two automatic semifinal berths will be restful blessings. Instead of going through a nerve-racking quarterfinals, there will be a chance to rest frayed nerves and hurting bodies and more time to spend with family and friends even as practices continue.

That’s why the leaders are trying everything to win those golden semifinal tickets.

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