Magnolia will deal with San Miguel lethal big man duo in PBA finals duel
The presence of Bennie Boatwright has allowed June Mar Fajardo to play a key secondary role in San Miguel Beer’s march to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
“I know what my role is within our team,” Fajardo said in a short chat with The Inquirer while entertaining autograph seekers during the Philippine Sportswriters Association Awards Night last Monday at Diamond Hotel.
Boatwright brought a different dimension to an already-deep Beermen lineup, forming a frontline tandem with the seven-time Most Valuable Player (MVP).
San Miguel finally learned its opponent for the title series in Magnolia, which took care of business on Wednesday by stopping Phoenix’s Cinderella run, 89-79, at Mall of Asia Arena.
Coach Chito Victolero and his defensive-minded Hotshots will try to solve the problem of coming up with a way to stop or at least limit the dreaded Boatwright-Fajardo duo and the rest of the Beermen in the series which opens on Friday at the same Pasay City venue.
“‘Death Five’ nga hirap na kami, sa ‘Death 15’ pa? (We already had problems with the ‘Death Five,’ what more the ‘Death 15),” Victolero said, referring to San Miguel counterpart Jorge Gallent’s proclamation that his lineup is more than just Boatwright, Fajardo or any player.
But it’s clear everything starts with the two bigs.
Fajardo usually camps out at the post while Boatwright, standing almost 6-foot-9, thrives on hitting on the outside shot or begins his attack from the top of the key.
Coach Tim Cone and Barangay Ginebra’s fears were realized in the semifinals as Boatwright and Fajardo inflicted trouble on players like Christian Standhardinger and Tony Bishop to lead the Beermen to a sweep of their best-of-five series.They are Magnolia’s problems now.
“We will try to find ways to beat them. I believe there’s always a solution to any problem and we will go to our strength which is defense,” Victolero said.
Fajardo averaged 15.3 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals and was named the final Player of the Week for the conference by the PBA Press Corps.
“We got a really good import who can score a lot and we also have a lot of scorers on this team,” said Fajardo. “My role is to set the tone, and to create something once they put the ball in my hands.”Magnolia took control early after taking double-digit leads in the first half of Game 4 of their semifinal encounter, but the Fuel Masters refused to roll over.
They made several runs in the second half, including midway in the fourth when Sean Manganti caught fire to spark a Phoenix rally.