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PBA: Helterbrand keys helter skelter win

Fajardo bags MVP award for record 3rd straight season.

Jayjay Helterbrand celebrated his 40th birthday last night by giving thousands of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel fans reason to come back for at least two more games.

Helterbrand stepped out of the shadows of impending retirement by burying three 3-pointers in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter to spark a head-spinning rally from 16 points as the Kings edged the Meralco Bolts, 88-86, to square at 2-2 the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Helterbrand, along with his longtime Fast and Furious partner Mark Caguioa engineered the comeback of the season before Joe Devance hit a turnaround jumper to beat the shot clock and break an 86-all count, 25 seconds remaining.

After an exchange of turnovers, LA Tenorio missed two free throws that would have sealed it for the Kings with 9.5 seconds to go, leaving the door open for Meralco to save Game 3.

But rookie Chris Newsome couldn’t shake off Justin Brownlee at the foul line and ran out of time before getting a hurried shot off.

Ginebra took the half, 46-35, as Justin Brownlee scored 11 points and Mark Caguioa added 10 off the bench.

The Kings shot 54 percent from the field and raised the level of their defensive intensity to choke the Bolts to 16 of 41 (39 percent).

Ginebra held Meralco to three points in the last 3:37 of the initial quarter to open a 20-13 lead, with the advantage at its biggest in the first half at 44-29 on a Brownlee jumper with 3:09 to go.

But it was all Meralco in the third quarter, with Anjo Caram and Allen Durham leading an 11-0 run as the Bolts overrun the Kings’ spread with a blistering fast break game anchored on an airtight defense.

From 11 points down, Meralco went up, 74-58, entering the fourth.

Meanwhile, San Miguel Beer center June Mar Fajardo won his third straight MVP plum to become the first player in PBA history to accomplish the feat.

Fajardo, only in his fourth year in the PBA, garnered 3,079 total points from the combined Statistical Points (1,500) and votes from the media (930), players (349) and the PBA Commissioner’s Office (300).

The 6-foot-10 center averaged 18.88 points, 12.88 rebounds, 1.47 assists and 1.35 shot blocks for the season as he helped his team win the Philippine Cup.

Fajardo, the Best Player of Conference (BPC) during the All-Filipino, bested fellow BPC recipients Calvin Abueva of Alaska (Commissioner’s Cup) and Jayson Castro of TNT Katropa (Governors’ Cup).

Castro came in second in the MVP balloting with 2,242 points while Abueva placed third with 1,501 points.

“Nakakatuwa, hindi ko ma-explain ’yung nararamdaman ko, hindi ko akalain,” Fajardo said. “Ano ba naman ako dati, hindi mahilig sa basketball. Wala na akong masabi. Sobrang blessed ako.”

Aside from the MVP award, Fajardo was again the recipient of his second consecutive Sportsmanship Award, now named after the Skywalker Samboy Lim.

Also in the Mythical First Team are SMB’s Arwind Santos, Terrence Romeo of Globalport, Castro, and Abueva.

Other Leo Award winners are Jericho Cruz of Rain or Shine (Most Improved Player) and Meralco’s Chris Newsome (Rookie of the Year). Named to the All-Defensive team were Marc Pingris of Star, Gabe Norwood of ROS, SMB’s Chris Ross, Alaska’s Chris Exciminiano, and Aguilar. (With reports from Tito Talao)