Fajardo said that he didn’t want to watch the team take the floor in Game 5 in street clothes and not taste action in the Philippine Cup finals.
San Miguel Beermen center June Mar Fajardo not only lent his inspirational presence propel their team to victory in Game 5 and cut their PBA Philippine Cup finals series deficit to 2-3, but also got the feel of the Smart Araneta Coliseum floor – albeit in a limited capacity – to give the team a much-needed boost.
Fajardo, an imposing 6-foot-11 big man, put up a decent 13 points on 4-for-5 shooting in just 16 minutes and 28 seconds on the floor, leading the San Miguel Beermen to an 86-73 overtime victory.
Head Coach Leo Austria said that June Mar Fajardo is still not 100 percent using their previous series against Rain or Shine as his basis, but commended his willingness to leave it all out on the floor for the team.
“Based on his game in the semifinals [versus Rain or Shine] and today, that’s only 60 percent [of his capability],” said Austria. “I think he will keep on improving. But I don’t know what will happen, because this is his first time to run, to get rebounds. So I hope nothing will happen, no inflammation [to his left knee].”
Austria previously was adamant in allowing Fajardo to play, but his insistence to play led to his return with 1:12 left in the first quarter.
“He was scheduled to play in Game 6 not in Game 5, but [we gave in] since he insisted. He wants to play because he wants to be seen on the court by the fans,” added Austria.
Following the game, Fajardo said he didn’t want to let an opportunity in the finals go to waste, especially if he could play through the pain.
“I told coach that I would like to enter early in the first half, but I will ask to be subbed out if I feel any pain. So far, I can manage the pain, but it’s the tightness on my leg that I’m concerned about,” said Fajardo.
“It’s the finals now. Not every player has the opportunity to play in the finals, so I could play through this but with my minutes [on the court] managed.”