MANILA, Philippines – June Mar Fajardo frolicked inside the paint and powered San Miguel to a 108-100 win over Phoenix in its PBA Philippine Cup opener at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday, June 8.
The six-time PBA MVP chalked up 24 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 blocks as the Beermen fended off the Fuel Masters to kick off their bid of reclaiming their All-Filipino throne on the right foot.
Pledging P200 to charity for every point he scores this season, Fajardo gave Phoenix headaches after shooting a stellar 9-of-11 clip from the field and making 6 of his 11 free throws.
That means Fajardo will shell out P4,800 after just the first game of his season-long donation drive.
Vic Manuel provided San Miguel spark off the bench by delivering 24 points in just 24 minutes, while CJ Perez stuffed the stats sheet with 19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 assists.
Manuel put the game away with 38 ticks left as he drained a jumper that pushed the Beermen lead to 104-96, an enough cushion that endured a Matthew Wright four-point play for the Fuel Masters in the next play.
Chris Ross then made it a two-possession lead for San Miguel with a quick layup before Fajardo added another P400 to his charity project for the final tally.
“Like I say, like other people say, this is our conference. But let us walk the talk,” said Beermen head coach Leo Austria. “It cannot be all talk. Let us work hard.”
Ross churned out a near-triple-double of 17 points, 12 assists, and 7 rebounds as San Miguel veterans took over to repel rookie-laden Phoenix.
Aside from Wright, the Fuel Masters banked on rookies Tyler Tio and Encho Serrano, who both exceeded expectations in their respective PBA debuts.
Tio – drafted 14th overall – sizzled for 17 points on a perfect 5-of-5 clip from deep as a starter, while No. 19 pick Serrano came off the bench and posted 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.
However, the rookies’ stellar performances were not enough to overcome the Beermen, who also got 9 points and 13 rebounds from Rodney Brondial.
Wright paced Phoenix with 22 points and 5 assists.
San Miguel 108 – Fajardo 24, Manuel 24, Perez 19, Ross 17, Brondial 9, Tautuaa 8, Lassiter 6, Pessumal 1, Enciso 0.
Phoenix 100 – Wright 22, Tio 17, Perkins 15, Serrano 15, Jazul 9, Mocon 5, Lalata 5, Pascual 4, Melecio 3, Manganti 3, Muyang 2, Porter 0, Rios 0, Garcia 0.
Quarters: 23-25, 54-51, 83-77, 108-100.