No ‘Beeracle’ this time
June Mar Fajardo can now concentrate on the coming Gilas Pilipinas campaign in the coming 30th Southeast Asia Games along with San Miguel Beer teammates Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross.
The SEAG cage title became the unexpected final hurdle for what had looked like a glorious season for Fajardo and Co. after Barangay Ginebra San Miguel again crushed SMB’s bid for a PBA Grand Slam after first pulling off the trick in 2017.
With potential Best Import awardee Dez Wells no longer around along with former MVP Arwind Santos and two local big men, the Beermen sputtered in the clutch and bowed to the Gin Kings, 100-97, in the PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinals Sunday.
Also advancing earlier to the best-of-five semifinals was Meralco as the back-to-back runner-up to Ginebra in 2016 and 2017 ousted 2018 losing finalist Alaska, 94-84, with Allein Malixi spewing fire as main backup to two-time Best Import Allen Durham.
In an earlier game Monday, NorthPort, the last and No. 8 seed in the quarterfinals, upset top qualifier NLEX, 115-90. The TNT KaTropa, the No. 3 qualifier, was battling defending champion Magnolia in the second game at press time.
The Batang Pier and the Road Warriors play off for the third semifinal slot on Wednesday. The best-of-five semifinals pitting Ginebra against the NLEX-NorthPort winner and Meralco against the survivor of the TNT-Magnolia duel will be held after the SEAG from Dec. 16 to 22.
The best-of-seven finals will start on Jan. 3 next year.
Wells, who ironically shot season highs of 56 and 52 points when SMB lost to NorthPort and Ginebra in the eliminations, was all set to return after an ankle injury until he figured in an altercation with Santos during practice that resulted in a fistfight that saw Ronald Tubid and Kelly Nabong trading punches.
As a result, the SMB management slapped indefinite suspension on Santos, Nabong and Tubid while letting go of Wells to emphasize the company’s commitment to “higher standard of professionalism and sportsmanship at all times.”
But Wells’ replacement, John Holland, proved a poor substitute and this eventually derailed SMB’s campaign to nail a second Grand Slam after its three-title sweep in 1989 under coach Norman Black, who now handles Meralco.