PBA Philippine Cup

Unaware of Best Player coronation, focused Fajardo dominates for San Miguel in finals equalizer

Delfin Dioquino

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Unaware of Best Player coronation, focused Fajardo dominates for San Miguel in finals equalizer

PASS. June Mar Fajardo in action for the San Miguel Beermen in the 2024 PBA Philippine Cup.

PBA Images

June Mar Fajardo gets both the Best Player of the Conference award and the crucial Game 4 win as San Miguel ties the PBA Philippine Cup finals against Meralco

MANILA, Philippines – June Mar Fajardo had no idea it was the day the PBA was supposed to announce the Best Player of the Conference (BPC) of the Philippine Cup.

All the 6-foot-10 big man wanted was to win.

Fajardo got both on Wednesday, June 12, as he claimed a record-extending 10th BPC plum before he catapulted San Miguel to a 111-101 victory over Meralco in Game 4 of the best-of-seven finals at the Araneta Coliseum.

Finding his groove early, Fajardo finished with a season-high 28 points and 13 rebounds as the Beermen knotted the series at 2-2.

“I did not know [about the awarding]. I was focused on the game and how we’re going to bounce back,” said Fajardo in Filipino. “We got the win and that is the important thing.”

“I was motivated because we’re down one game in the series. The BPC is just a bonus.”

Fajardo rediscovered his dominant ways after he struggled in their 93-89 loss in Game 3, which saw him score just 12 points on a season-low-tying 5 field goals and cough up a season-high 7 turnovers.

In Game 4, Fajardo imposed his will from the get-go as he matched his Game 3 tally in the opening quarter alone, helping San Miguel race to a 29-22 lead.

Although the Bolts fought back, it was a fast start that allowed the Beermen to post their highest scoring output of this finals and improve to 13-0 when scoring at least 100 points in a game this conference.

The game also marked the first time in this championship clash that San Miguel breached the century mark after being held to under 90 points twice – both ending in losses.

“I needed to assert myself because if we lost, it would have been 3-1. It is hard to come back from 3-1. We wanted to win and tie the series,” said Fajardo.

CJ Perez backstopped Fajardo with 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Marcio Lassiter fired 18 points on a 4-of-6 clip from deep as he closed in on PBA icon Allan Caidic for the second spot in the all-time three-pointers list.

The Beermen also got timely contributions from Terrence Romeo and Vic Manuel, who saw action in this finals for the first time.

Manuel delivered 8 points and 2 rebounds after battling illness, while Romeo added 7 points and 3 assists despite nursing a calf strain.

“I talked to Terrence and Vic and said, ‘If there is a chance that I can bring you inside, can you play at least 110%?’ And they did today. Very happy that they followed instructions,” said San Miguel head coach Jorge Gallent.

Chris Newsome put Meralco on his back with a career-high 40 points on an ultra-efficient 12-of-18 shooting to go with 6 rebounds and 4 assists, but the Bolts simply failed to match the defending champions’ firepower.

“As long as the rest do not score, we’re fine. He had his 40, but we kind of stopped the rest of them. Very happy for that,” said Gallent.

Chris Banchero put up 21 points and Cliff Hodge supplied 17 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.

The Scores

San Miguel 111– Fajardo 28, Perez 22, Lassiter 18, Tautuaa 9, Trollano 8, Manuel 8, Romeo 7, Ross 6, Cruz 5, Brondial 0, Teng 0.

Meralco 101 – Newsome 40, Banchero 21, Hodge 17, Maliksi 9, Quinto 6, Bates 4, Almazan 2, Rios 2, Caram 0, Torres 0.

Quarters: 29-22, 51-40, 82-74, 111-101.

– Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.