San Miguel support crew just as potent as Fajardo, starters
But the emergence of role players like Brian Heruela, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser and Gabby Espinas has left the Hotshots with a bigger headache as they try to equalize the best-of-seven series on Wednesday.
The Hotshots did limit Fajardo and Arwind Santos in Game 3, but just when they thought, they’ve solved half of their problems, more surfaced when Heruela, Rosser and Espinas came up big in the fourth quarter as the Beermen went on another outburst that resulted in a 111-87 win and a 2-1 edge on Sunday.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero acknowledged the difficult challenge ahead for the Hotshots, whose squad is already hit with injuries on Marc Pingris and Justin Melton.
“I think we need to find ways to match up or surpass the energy of the second group of San Miguel,” Victolero said.
“We had a hard time matching up with the energy of Heruela and other guys coming off the bench. I think we did a pretty good job on defending June Mar and Arwind, but the problem is the other guys stepping up. I think we need to worry about that as well.”
Often overlooked because of the sheer talent of San Miguel’s starting unit, Heruela’s confidence is soaring after making an impact in the last two games, while Rosser has been working wonders on the defensive end.
The veteran Espinas played his best game of the season so far with nine points in Game 3 held at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
The trio played so well along with Santos and Marcio Lassiter that coach Leo Austria did not see the need to bring Fajardo back in the game.
“I’m always looking at giving them a chance to get long minutes, but it depends on their first three minutes,” Austria said after the Beermen moved within two wins of a fourth straight title. “But in Game 3, when I saw that they weren’t giving up the lead … I had the luxury to rest our starters. Because they were able to sustain the lead, they’re deserving to be on the court.”
Fajardo likes how the series has panned out especially with his other teammates stepping up.
“I just hope this continues so it will be easier for us (to win the series),” said the 6-foot-10 Cebuano phenomenon.
For the Hotshots though, there’s really no recourse but to take it all in the chin and fight back.
“We’re not going to stop until we figure out a way to stop them (Beermen),” said Victolero.