by Jonas Terrado
Games Wednesday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. – Magnolia vs Columbian
7 p.m. – NLEX vs Alaska
June Mar Fajardo erupted for 40 points while making a key pass late that sealed San Miguel Beer’s 113-107 win over NorthPort in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fajardo made 14 of 15 shots and grabbed 19 rebounds before his kickout pass that set up Chris Ross’ three with 12.1 seconds left sealed the final score and a third consecutive victory for the defending champions.
The win, which came despite enduring a bad start, put San Miguel in solo lead at 6-3 while moving a game behind Rain or Shine (7-3) for second place.
Terrence Romeo scored 23 points, Marcio Lassiter put up 15 points and Arwind Santos added 11 points, nine rebounds and a block that made him the eighth player in history to produce 800 career blocks.
But playing the starring role was Fajardo, whose superb play was credited by coach Leo Austria to him losing weight during Gilas Pilipinas’ campaign in the final window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.
“I think his Gilas stint helped him a lot because he was able to lose weight which made him very agile,” Austria said of Fajardo after registering his fourth career 40-point game.
The Beermen won despite starting the game trailing 14-2 and 54-50 at the half.
Fajardo joined forces with Romeo and Lassiter to launch a counter assault that gave San Miguel its largest lead at 15.
NorthPort tried to make a run in the fourth, closing the gap to two twice in the final two minutes of the fourth.
The Batang Pier made a last ditch effort at tying the score with Stanley Pringle’s floater putting him team within three, 110-107, only for Fajardo to make a timely pass for Ross for the decisive shot from rainbow country.
Mo Tautuaa finished with a career-high 28 points and 13 rebounds but NorthPort absorbed its fifth straight defeat after a 2-0 start, putting its quarterfinals bid in jeopardy.
San Miguel 113 – Fajardo 40, Romeo 23, Lassiter 15, Santos 11, Nabong 11, Ross 9, Rosser 4, Cabagnot 0, Pessumal 0.
NorthPort 107 – Tautuaa 28, Anthony 16, Bolick 12, Grey 12, Taha 11, Elorde 11, Pringle 10, Lanete 5, Guinto 2, Gabayni 0, Sollano 0.
Quarters: 21-25, 50-54, 84-77, 113-107.
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