San Miguel tackles rough PBA weekend

Ivan Aska San Miguel PBA

San Miguel Beer import Ivan Aska.–PBA IMAGES

The “Next Man Up” mentality is keeping San Miguel Beer afloat in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup eliminations thus far, and coach Jorge Gallent hopes that some of his injured players are able to return in time for a tough stretch as the Beermen start another drive for a title.

“I’m just happy that the guys on the bench are stepping up. That’s their job, and they’re doing it,” said Gallent as the Beermen return from a long layoff with a hectic schedule going into the long weekend at Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

Minus June Mar Fajardo, San Miguel begins the stretch Friday at 8 p.m. against NorthPort, which came off a win over bottom feeder Converge. The seven-time MVP fractured his hand more than a week ago and left a void so deep Gallent would need more than one player to plug it.

The faceoff with the Batang Pier comes before the Beermen tackle the unbeaten Magnolia Hotshots on Sunday in a massive test for either side.

Magnolia continued its perfect start by going 6-0 Wednesday, needing to pull away in the fourth quarter to produce a 105-84 victory over Blackwater.

Not only is Fajardo out, but the Beermen have been dealing with the absences of Jeron Teng, Terrence Romeo, Vic Manuel and rookie Kyt Jimenez due to different injuries.

Gallent hinted that Teng (hamstring), Romeo (knee) and Jimenez (orbital fracture) could be back by next week while the timetable of Manuel (knee) remains lengthy.

That hasn’t prevented the Beermen from posting three wins in their first four games of the conference, including the 115-110 victory over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Nov. 29.

Veterans Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross have been getting increased minutes in lieu of the injured players, same with Jericho Cruz, who has played two games since missing the first three of the season.

And with Fajardo sidelined, Gallent will be leaning on Mo Tautuaa and Rodney Brondial to fill the role while helping out import Ivan Aska.

CJ Perez is expected to play the lead role now that Fajardo, who could be out for four to six weeks, heals up.

“And when [the injured players] start to come back, then we will be better as a team, not as individuals,” said Gallent.

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The other game pits Rain or Shine, coming off a breakthrough win after a 0-4 start, and skidding NLEX in the opener at 4 p.m.