MANILA, Philippines – It has been a long time coming for June Mar Fajardo and San Miguel.
The mighty Beermen moved a step closer to regaining their lost PBA glory as they advanced to the championship round of the Philippine Cup for their first finals appearance in three years.
Rebounding from a stunning collapse, San Miguel trounced Meralco, 100-89, in the do-or-die game of their best-of-seven semifinals on Wednesday, August 17, to set up a title duel with defending champion TNT.
“It took us a long time to reach the finals again,” said Fajardo, who showed the way in Game 7 with a monster 29-point, 14-rebound double-double in 38 minutes of action.
“Credit to Meralco, they had a great series and a great game plan. But the game plan of [coach Leo Austria] prevailed so we won.”
Before that three-year wait, the Beermen arguably were the best team in the league, winning eight titles from 2015 to 2019, including a record five straight All-Filipino crowns.
In the 2019 season, San Miguel ruled the first two conferences and fell just a title short of a rare Grand Slam.
From a perennial champion team, though, San Miguel saw its fortunes turn sour after six-time MVP Fajardo suffered a shin injury just before the 2020 season kicked off.
In the three conferences that followed since that injury, the Beermen made the semifinals just once and suffered a pair of quarterfinal exits, both at the hands of the Bolts.
But with Fajardo back in his deadly form and San Miguel rediscovering its dominant ways, the Beermen are bent on reclaiming their place in the PBA summit.
“We just need to help each other and play as a team,” said Fajardo. “We just need to follow the game plan. We play well during practice so we just have to execute that kind of play in the game.”
Fajardo believes his crew has what it takes to dethrone the Tropang Giga.
“We all know how hard it is to win a championship. But we’ll do everything we can to fulfill that goal. We all know that is not impossible,” Fajardo said.
The best-of-seven Philippine Cup finals will tip off on Sunday, August 21, at the Araneta Coliseum. – Rappler.com