Inquirer December 27,2016 - 08:53 PM
Cebuano June Mar Fajardo is expected to be San Miguel’s main weapon once more against Meralco tonight. (PBA IMAGES)

Cebuano June Mar Fajardo is expected to be San Miguel’s main weapon once more against Meralco tonight. (PBA IMAGES)

Well-rested San Miguel Beer not taking chances vs Meralco

Games Today (Cuneta Astrodome)
4:15 p.m. – GlobalPort vs Phoenix Petroleum
7 p.m. – Meralco vs San Miguel Beer

It may sound odd for some, but San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria had very specific instructions for his Beermen heading into the holiday break.

“I just asked them not to indulge (on the food) so much,” Austria said as his PBA Philippine Cup–leading Beermen return to action after more than 10 days, squaring off with dangerous Meralco at the start of a stretch that their coach describes as “very crucial.”

“They are responsible enough because they know what is at stake for us,” he said as he prepared to leave home for practice to prep the Beermen for their 7 p.m. collision with the Bolts at Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay. “We need to play well in this stretch if we want to have a chance at achieving our (elimination round) goal.”

Austria made it no secret that their goal is landing a spot in the top two, and Meralco is the first of four tough assignments they have in the next three weeks, with Blackwater, Rain or Shine, GlobalPort and TNT KaTropa to come next.

“This is an opportunity for us to show our worth,” Austria declared as he knows that Meralco has its back against the wall, coming off two straight defeats that put the Bolts in the bottom half of the standings and out of the playoff picture at the moment.

June Mar Fajardo will still be Austria’s main man and Meralco coach Norman Black’s match-up concern in the paint.

The reigning three-time MVP has been an unstoppable force on a one-on-one basis, with his size, agility and ability to hit the medium range jumpers his main weapons against smaller, much slower centers.

And his support cast led by fellow former MVP Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross makes San Miguel the favorite against this Meralco side which is trying to play together well after tabbing two talented rookies in Ed Daquioag and Jonathan Grey.

Chris Newsome, Cliff Hodge and the veteran Reynel Hugnatan will be Black’s main weapons on both ends, with Hodge and Hugnatan, for sure, to be asked by the Meralco coaching staff to play Fajardo double time underneath.

Meanwhile, after snapping out of a funk, Phoenix Petroleum shoots for a second straight victory in the 4:15 p.m. curtain raiser against GlobalPort, with the Fuel Masters shooting for a follow-up of an impressive 94–90 conquest of the Bolts last week.

The Batang Pier, on the other hand, are still smarting from a 99–91 loss at the hands of Blackwater and are itching to get back on track using the Terrence Romeo-Stanley Pringle combine to grab a piece of second place at the end of the year.

San Miguel wants the highest finish possible after the eliminations to earn a light assignment in the first round of the playoffs, which could, obviously, help the Beermen preserve strength as they go for the franchise’s first “three-peat” in the league’s most prestigious conference.

To show that he meant business in asking his players to stay away from things that would put them out of shape, Austria has showed up in practices with the same fit form that he has had even after being retired for several decades.

“I also stayed away from lechon, etc.,” he told the Inquirer with a laugh. “It’s also to show them that I practice what I preach, and also, because of my age, I also have to stay healthy.”

Without him saying it, staying healthy for the Beermen means staying on top of the standings.

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TAGS: basketball, Fajardo, league, Leo Austria, PBA, PBA Philippine Cup, San Miguel Beer

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