June Mar Fajardo returns, forms a lethal tandem with Boatwright

June Mar Fajardo returns, forms a lethal tandem with Boatwright at San Miguel

Duo gives PBA Commissioner's Cup field glimpse of devastating frontline Beermen can have in playoffs
/ 05:25 AM January 13, 2024

PBA San Miguel June Mar Fajardo Bennie Boatwright

San Miguel Beermen’s June Mar Fajardo and Bennie Boatwright. –MRLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

 

June Mar Fajardo described import Bennie Boatwright as someone who can make his job easier as his return Friday gave a glimpse of how their combination could spell the difference in San Miguel Beer’s bid to win the PBA Commissioner’s Cup crown.

“I hope it’s always like this. Life is a lot easier,” Fajardo said in Filipino after his first game since late-November and helping the Beermen in a 125-117 victory at Smart Araneta Coliseum that cemented San Miguel’s hold on a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.

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Fajardo, whose modest 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists were enough, boosted San Miguel in closing out with an 8-3 record. And that’s not at all bad after he had missed their last six games due to a fractured left hand sustained in a game against Rain or Shine.

It was in that span that San Miguel decided on Boatwright, the 6-foot-9 inside-outside threat who has now played the last three games of the eliminations as replacement for Ivan Aska. He finished with 44 points spiked by eight threes against the Bossing after dropping 51 the previous weekend opposite Terrafirma.

San Miguel Beermen PBA import Bennie Boatwright Jr

San Miguel import Bennie Boatwright Jr in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

Boatwright has proven to be more than a suitable replacement for Aska as his combination of being an inside presence and a player who can score from the perimeter gives foes a different defensive perspective with Fajardo also dominant on the post.

“I love him. He makes my job easy because he’s such a great passer,” Boatwright said of Fajardo, noting how the seven-time Most Valuable Player can do many things with the ball in his hands.

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“When he gets the ball inside, they have to double him, go zone, and all I have to do is space out and find me, and he finds everybody. If they don’t double him, he can go one-on-one and he’s tough to stop. He’s a force to be reckoned with,” he added.

Awaiting foe

The combo spells danger to whichever team San Miguel faces in the quarters which opens next week. The Beermen will face the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters if they finish second in the standings or the NorthPort Batang Pier if they wind up third.

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NorthPort is already sure of the sixth seed in the playoffs at 6-5, while Rain or Shine has already locked up the No. 7 spot even with a 5-5 record with Converge due up on Sunday at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.

San Miguel finished classification with a five-game winning streak, overcoming multiple injury woes and a two-game slide midway into the campaign.

“Our first goal is to get the twice-to-beat advantage, so now we have to focus on our quarterfinals stint,” coach Jorge Gallent said. “So this five-game winning streak is out already. This is ladder one. We’re in ladder two now.”

San Miguel’s backcourt also contributed, with CJ Perez scoring 15, Terrence Romeo coming off the bench to produce 14 points and six assists in 17 minutes.

Blackwater ended the conference with a 1-10 record, failing to register another win after taking down Converge in its opening assignment.

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The Bossing, led by import Chris Ortiz’s 43 points, actually got within a point, 107-106, in the fourth, but the Beermen scored seven in a row to pull away.

TAGS: June Mar Fajardo, PBA, San Miguel Beer

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