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PBA: Fajardo gears up for E-Painters’ own giants

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Now on his fourth season in the PBA, San Miguel Beer center June Mar Fajardo knows one important thing for the Beermen to do when they face the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in a semifinal series that starts Tuesday.

“We just need to stay focused, even if they play physical,” said Fajardo.

“Ilang beses ko na din sila naka-harap, physical talaga mag-laro pero ok lang. Stay focused, siguro hindi lang ako, buong team,” added Fajardo, who had a quick trip in his hometown in Pinamungajan, Cebu last Thursday and Friday to celebrate the New Year with his family.

Rain or Shine arranged a semifinal meeting with SMB after ousting Blackwater and Talk ’N Text in the quarterfinal round. Game 1 of the best-of-seven affair is scheduled Tuesday at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

The 6-foot-10 back-to-back reigning MVP Fajardo is expecting Rain or Shine to play not just its usual running game, but elevate the level of physicality that team of Coach Yeng Guiao is known for with players like Beau Belga and JR Quinahan.

Aside from the 6-6 Belga and the 6-5 Quinahan, Rain or Shine’s frontline rotation also includes 6-8 center Raymond Almazan and 6-6 forward Jewel Ponferada, who was acquired by the Painters in a pre-season trade with Globalport.

The four had an early success against Fajardo when RoS defeated SMB, 99-84, last Nov. 6 as the Beermen’s gentle giant was held to 13 points on just 3-of-7 shooting from the field and 7-of-12 from the free throw line. Fajardo also had 10 rebounds in nearly 35 minutes of action.

In contrast, Belga and Almazan each scored 15 points, while Ponferada added eight markers and together with Quinahan, the four collected a combined 32 rebounds as they took turns in double teaming Fajardo at the low block.
Guiao said they intend to apply the same defensive coverage on Fajardo – double team – as no single player can deny the SMB center from scoring inside the shaded area and even outside with his improved jump shot.
At the end of the elimination round, Fajardo is averaging 23.09 points, 14.36 rebounds, 1.64 assists and 1.82 shot blocks.
The team earned an outright semifinal spot after SMB finished tied on top with Alaska with similar 9-2 cards. The last time the Beermen played was Dec. 16 when they lost to the Aces (97-103), that snapped a seven-game win streak.

Meantime Fajardo revealed that his concentration is on his team’s campaign not on individual award even though he is on track of winning a third Best Player of the Conference (BPC) trophy and his closest competitor Greg Slaughter – his former collegiate rival – is no longer in the playoffs with the ouster of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.

After the elimination round, Fajardo has accumulated 45.6 Statistical Points, while the 7-foot Slaughter has 45.3 SPs.