Meralco bigs draw out Fajardo nerves

June Mar Fajardo San Miguel Beermen PBA Finals

San Miguel center June Mar Fajardo during the PBA Finals press conference.–PBA IMAGES

San Miguel Beer star June Mar Fajardo faces a big problem in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals.

Two, actually.

When the defending champion Beermen play the Meralco Bolts in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series on Wednesday, the challengers will have a couple of big men looking to make life difficult for the seven-time Most Valuable Player—on both ends of the floor.

“Of course, I’m nervous,” Fajardo said during the Finals press conference on Monday at Crowne Plaza in Ortigas, where he was asked about his matchup against Meralco bigs Raymond Almazan and Brandon Bates.“Brandon has been playing really well, especially in that Game 7 [vs. Ginebra]. He has [huge] potential, he always goes hard and that’s the good thing about him.”

Bates has made it clear in the Bolts’ playoff run in the all-Filipino conference that he’s willing to do the dirty work inside for Meralco.That grit and effort from the young gun helped Meralco shoehorn its way to the Finals.

In their do-or-die game against Ginebra with a Finals seat on the line, Bates showed his worth with six points, 13 rebounds and six huge blocks to help the Bolts down the Gin Kings for good, 78-69.

And then of course, there’s also Almazan.

“Raymond is my friend … I’ll beat him up,” said Fajardo in jest.

Meralco is hoping that the two players can slow Fajardo down at the low blocks while giving the San Miguel cornerstone problems defending them, especially with Almazan having the ability to drag the league’s most dominant player to the perimeter.

“Raymond’s not just someone you can ignore because he has such a high percentage from the three-points and the perimeter. He’s also long so he can defend and score,” added the 10-time PBA champion.

The duo’s efforts will play a huge role for Meralco, which is hoping to notch a first franchise title in the PBA.

“We did a lot of things for us to get to this point now. We’ve always said that for us to get a championship, we’ll have to compete with the best,” said ace wingman Chris Newsome.

“The team that we have across from us right now has proven that they have been the best for quite some time.”

And Fajardo is making one thing clear; he’ll do whatever’s needed to help keep the Beermen on top with another title.

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“I’ll do my best to help the team win. For sure, it (series) will be a dog fight. We know how Meralco plays. They go hard and they’re No. 1 in defense so we’ll do our best.” INQ