Beermen even more dangerous without Fajardo, say Aces
While most teams would prefer to play San Miguel Beer without June Mar Fajardo, Alaska would rather have it the other way around when the Aces and the Beermen begin their 2016 Philippine Cup Finals series on Sunday.
Alaska saw a glimpse of the kind of San Miguel it could face, the one minus its superstar center, when Fajardo went down with a left knee injury in the third quarter of the Beermen’s series-clinching win over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Friday night.
“Kagabi, ang eksatktong sinabi ko kay coach Alex (Compton) after June Mar’s injury was ‘San Miguel is very scary,'” said Alaska deputy Louie Alas following the Aces’ practice at Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong Saturday on the eve of Game 1. “Before kasi lahat ng load na kay June Mar, ngayon lahat sila gustong manalo. Lumabas lahat ng galing nila, so scary.”
“Si June Mar yung talagang number one [player] nila and okay nga sa akin kung makakapaglaro siya kasi mas pabor nga sa amin yon eh kasi mas mahirap sila kalaban kung hindi siya makakapaglaro,” said Aces big man Vic Manuel. “Lahat mag-step up hindi tulad kapag naglalaro siya yung lahat ng focus namin nasa kanya.”
The Beermen hardly missed Fajardo, who was stretchered off, on Friday night with backup big man and former Ace Gabby Espinas and other key players in Arwind Santos, Ronald Tubid and Marcio Lassiter stepping up in his absence.
Fajardo averaged 34.8 points, 16.4 rebounds and 3.2 blockers per game in nearly 40 minutes of action in the semifinals and those numbers are also the reason why Alaska would rather see him play.
Fajardo had 43 points on top of 20 rebounds and two blocks, but despite one of the best games of his career, the Beermen still came up short against the Aces, 103-97, in both teams’ only meeting so far this conference.
“As I’ve said, si Lassiter ganito lang ang effort niya mado-doble yan. Nakita natin si Arwind kahapon, very seldom mong makikita na si Arwind umaatake and I saw him last night. Si Ryan Araña last two games has been playing well. So lahat yan collective,” said Alas.
“Nung nangyari yon, gumanda yung laro ng San Miguel. Marami sigurong magsasabi na advantage na kami kapag wala si June Mar pero nakita namin after nung nangyari kay June Mar nag-step up yung other players nila,” said Aces’ veteran swingman Dondon Hontiveros.
“Tulad nga ng sinabi ni coach Alex, si Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz are spotup shooters because of June Mar but with June Mar out for sure babalik yung dati nilang laro nung nasa Gilas sila so we have to be ready.”