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Fajardo eyes 1st PBA title

SMB's June Mar Fajardo makes his move under the basket against Blackwater's Jason Ballesteros and Bryan Faundo during PBA second game action at Cuneta Astrodome. Photo by Tony PIonilla

Manila, Philippines – Reigning Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo is hoping to finally fulfill his ultimate goal of winning the championship after leading the San Miguel Beermen to the PBA Philippine Cup Finals last Friday.

Fajardo earned his second trip to the championship series after he and the Beermen completed a four-game sweep of the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters in the semifinals with a 100-87 victory last Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Denied of a championship in his first try, the 6-foot-10 center is determined to lead San Miguel back to the Promised Land.

“Excited kami na makabalik ulit sa Finals,” said Fajardo. “Tataasan namin yung intensity, gagalingan pa namin. Walang madali, lahat mahirap. Kailangan namin magpractice pa lalo kasi pahirap ng pahirap yung Finals. Hindi basta-basta ibibigay yan.”

Fajardo dominated Talk ‘N Text in the semis by averaging 21 points and 11.8 rebounds. His best performance came in the series-clinching Game 4 when he punished the Tropang Texters for 28 points and 16 rebounds.

San Miguel, which will face either Rain or Shine or Alaska in a best-of-seven series, is gunning for its first title since the 2011 Governors’ Cup when the team was known as the Petron Blaze Boosters.

Since then, the title has eluded the PBA’s remaining charter member.

The franchise came close to winning the title in the 2013 Governors’ Cup but Fajardo and the then-Blaze Boosters lost in seven games to their sister team San Mig Coffee Mixers.

Last season, Fajardo’s team failed to advance to the finals of any of the three conferences, losing to Rain or Shine during the semifinals of the Philippine Cup, to Air21 in the quarterfinals of the Commissioner’s Cup, and San Mig Super Coffee in the quarterfinals of the Governors’ Cup.

“Hindi ko maexplain, basta mahirap makaabot sa Finals. Kaya ngayong nandito na kami, sayang yung opportunity kung di namin ite-take advantage. Kailangan naming mag-go hard lang lagi,” said Fajardo.

SMB’s success this conference has been credited mostly to the tutelage of new coach Leo Austria, who made good on his promise to improve team chemistry when he was hired by management in the offseason.

So far, the star-studded Beermen have bought into Austria’s system with Fajardo getting plenty of help from Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, Chris Ross, Doug Kramer, Ronald Tubid and late acquisition Alex Cabagnot.

“Maganda yung teamwork namin ngayon kaya walang imposible para sa amin,” Fajardo said. “Basta magtutulungan lang kami, huwag lang maging selfish. Kailangan namin ng teamwork.”

Fajardo refrained from choosing which team he wants to face in the finals, saying: “Kahit sino sa kanila yung makalaban namin, parehas na malakas.”