June Mar Fajardo a 'game changer' as Gilas heads to World Cup, says Blatche
MANILA, Philippines – Andray Blatche did most of the heavy lifting in Gilas Pilipinas' 2019 FIBA World Cup berth-clinching 93-75 win over Kazakhstan, but he credited June Mar Fajardo for being the "game changer."
The naturalized player, who scattered 41 points, 13 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks for the Philippines, lauded the reigning five-time PBA MVP for holding the fort down low when Blatche was forced to sit on the bench.
"I got into foul trouble and I want to tip my hat to June Mar, he came in and he was really the game changer for us and took over the team for us," Blatche said in the post-game presser.
Incurring his fourth foul with still 3:45 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, Blatche was replaced by Fajardo to avoid the possibily of him fouling out, especially in the most crucial stretch of the game.
At that point, the Philippines led 60-51 with Kazakhstan obviously within shouting distance.
But the substitution turned out to be the optimal decision as Fajardo helped the Philippines build a 77-63 lead before he was replaced by Blatche with 7:19 remaining.
In that stretch, Fajardo scored 7 points, hauled down 5 rebounds and dished out 1 assist. He finished with 9 markers, 5 boards and 1 dime overall in 12 minutes of play.
"[A]nother big man, June Mar Fajardo, just took over when he (Blatche) was on the bench. That was a key situation for us," Guiao said.
A member of the Philippine team that saw action in the 2014 World Cup in Spain, Fajardo is bound to be the quadrennial showpiece, which will be staged in China from August 31 to September 15, for the second time. – Rappler.com