PBA Philippine Cup

Step by step: San Miguel not looking too far ahead as sweep looms amid flawless run

Delfin Dioquino

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Step by step: San Miguel not looking too far ahead as sweep looms amid flawless run

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

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Banking on the one-two punch of June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez, San Miguel rolls to its ninth straight win to clinch the top seed in the PBA Philippine Cup

MANILA, Philippines – The way things are going, San Miguel sweeping the elimination round of the PBA Philippine Cup appears more like a certainty than a possibility.

Banking on the one-two punch of June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez, the Beermen rolled to their ninth straight win and clinched the top seed after a 120-103 thrashing of NLEX at the PhilSports Arena on Sunday, April 28.

Fajardo and Perez combined for 50 points, while four other San Miguel players scored at least 14 points as the Beermen moved within two wins from becoming the first team to go unbeaten in the elimination round in a decade.

But as San Miguel head coach Jorge Gallent has been preaching all conference long, the focus is on the next task at hand and nothing more.

“Our next goal is the 10th game. We’re just going step by step,” said Gallent. “As of now, we’ll think of the 10th game. If it comes, it comes. That is not really in our minds.”

Held to single-digit scoring last game, Fajardo dominated this time with 20 points and 21 rebounds for his first 20-20 performance of the season.

Fajardo reached the 20-point mark off a floater with under 25 seconds as he stayed in the game until the final buzzer – a show of commitment for a Beermen side determined to play at the highest level for the full 48 minutes.

“We needed to win. We wanted to win. We wanted to get the No. 1 spot because that has been our goal even before the start of the conference. We got it now,” said Fajardo.

“The challenge for us is how we’re going to stay on top.”

Perez paced San Miguel in scoring with 30 points, marking the fifth straight game he scored at least 25 points.

Terrence Romeo and Jericho Cruz supplied 15 points apiece off the bench, while starters Don Trollano and Marcio Lassiter added 14 points each in the victory.

Rookie stalwart Enoch Valdez posted 18 points and 8 rebounds to show the way for the Road Warriors, who suffered their third straight loss and fell to 5-4 as they badly missed the presence of star guard Robert Bolick.

Bolick missed the game to be with his wife Cassandra, who gave birth to their son on Sunday.

Another rookie in Jhan Nermal stepped up for NLEX with 16 points and 5 rebounds, while Matt Nieto tallied 14 points and 7 assists.

The Scores

San Miguel 120 – Perez 30, Fajardo 20, Romeo 15, Cruz 15, Lassiter 14, Trollano 14, Enciso 6, Brondial 4, Teng 2, Tautuaa 0, Ross 0.

NLEX 103 – Valdez 18, Nermal 16, Nieto 14, Anthony 12, Herndon 11, Rodger 8, Miranda 7, Semerad 7, Fajardo 4, Amer 2, Taha 2.

Quarters: 25-15, 50-41, 83-71, 120-103.

– 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.