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June Mar Fajardo leads San Miguel to opening day romp of Phoenix

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Marcio Lassiter and June Mar Fajardo joined hands late in the fourth quarter to help San Miguel Beermen repel a tough Phoenix Fuel Masters, 104-96, and start their Philippine Cup four-peat bid strong, Sunday at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

“The first win is always really hard, especially for our team, everybody prepares hard for us,” said SMB coach Leo Austria. “Fortunately all of our starters scored in double figures. I did not expect they will score a lot because I think this is the offseason we have.”

Reigning four-time MVP Fajardo top-scored for San Miguel with 23 points alongside 16 rebounds and four blocks. Lassiter, meanwhile, provided 20 points spiked by four treys on top of five rebounds and four assists.

The Beermen led by as much as 17, 79-62, late in the third, until the Fuel Masters unloaded a fiery 18-6 rally — capped by Jeff Chan’s wide-open trey — to inch within striking distance, 80-85, with 6:30 in the final frame.

But then, the 1-2 punch of Lassiter and Fajardo were too much for Phoenix to handle. The duo powered an overwhelming 18-4 spree — ended by Fajardo’ jumper — to take a game-sealing 103-84 lead with 2:36 left to play.

“I really have respect to Phoenix especiall with the new coaching staff. They are out there to show something, what they have,” lauded Austria of their opponents, who gave he and SMB a tough time early in the match.

“I think they’re capable of handling any team. Unfortunately we have an intact line up that is playing really well, like a well-oiled machine,” the reigning coach of the year added.

Alex Cabagnot supplied 22 points for rhe reigning three-time All-Filipino championsls. Chris Ross scattered 16 points, six rebounds, and nine assists, while Arwind Santos chipped in 14 markers and 11 boards.

Chan led Phoenix with 18 points. Matthew Wright made 12 points on a horrid 4-of-17 shooting, while Willie Wilson, Gelo Alolino, and Justin Chua all produced 11 points apiece.

Jason Perkins had a decent PBA debut as he finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.

Both squads will return to action after 10 days, on December 27, Wednesday, still at the Big Dome. The Fuel Masters will take on Kia Picanto at 4:15 PM, followed by the Beermen’s clash with Meralco Bolts at 7:00 PM.

The Scores:

San Miguel (104) — Fajardo 23, Cabagnot 22, Lassiter 20, Ross 16, Santos 14, Pessumal 5, Ganuelas-Rosser 4, Agovida 0, Heruela 0, Lanete 0, Mabulac 0, Mamaril 0, Vigil 0.

Phoenix (96) — Chan 18, Wright 12, Alolino 11, Chua 11, Wilson 11, Dehesa 8, Kramer 6, Jazul 4, Eriobu 2, Intal 2, Revilla 1.

Quarterscores: 23-18, 47-37, 79-68, 104-96.

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Gilas still sticking with Andray Blatche, says team manager Butch Antonio

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It will still be Andray Blatche

Gilas Pilipinas team manager Butch Antonio made it clear that naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche will be back for the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on February.

Blatche has yet to attend Gilas practices due to his commitment with Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association, but Antonio said that they have already reached out to the said league for his temporary release.

“We have already made communication. We sent a letter already,” said the executive after Gilas’ practice Monday. “Kasi that’s the protocol now eh… You have to write a letter to the team through the CBA and you will just have to wait for their reply.”

It is still uncertain if and when the Flying Tigers will lend the naturalized center to Gilas, who will face Australia and Japan on February 22 and 25, respectively. But Antonio is confident that the ball club will let the former NBA cager go.

“More often than not naman they’ll release him. It’s just a matter of when.

“In our letter we identified pretty much when we start our daily practice, when we hopefully want to have him in, when we plan to leave for Australia and when he comes back and when he gets back to his mother team in China,” said Antonio.

It also helps knowing that the CBA will be on a break during the second window of the Asian Qualifiers next month, as all the teams will be preparing for the league’s playoffs that time.

Antonio also allayed fears that Blatche is hurt while in China. Those speculations rose early this January as Blatche has only played in five games for Xinjiang so far.

“No, we were in touch with his agent, parang okay naman siya,” said the long-time Gilas official. “I think he has healed. The last time he played he was coming from that hamstring injury but I have not followed it because we’re busy.

“But I think he’s been playing in the CBA pretty well. And his team has been winning. So that’s good for us.”

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Jong Uichico calls for pool players to be complete as Gilas brace for Aussies

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Cause for concern?

In their second session for the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, only nine of the 15 Gilas pool players actively participated.

June Mar Fajardo, Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Troy Rosario, Jiovani Jalalon, Carl Cruz, Gabe Norwood, Allein Maliksi, and Japeth Aguilar were in uniform while Roger Pogoy watched on the sidelines. Jayson Castro and Mac Belo were not present while Calvin Abueva and Raymond Almazan have yet to attend a session. 23 for 2023 cadets CJ Perez and Abu Tratter were called to duty to give the team added bodies.

The session ended earlier than usual, only practicing for around 45 minutes.

“Light lang naman. Some players had games last night,” said assistant coach Uichico, who together with Josh Reyes handled the night’s session. “Light lang pero we emphasized on some things in today’s practice, it’s more mental and a little bit of execution. “

With Gilas’ game against the 10th ranked Australia just 34 days away, Uichico expressed his concern that the Nationals won’t be as cohesive as they want it to be.

“It’s always a concern naman. We prefer once a week na lang naman, di pa tayo makumpleto,” expressed Uichico,

“We prefer really na makumpleto whether they practice or not, at least nandyan sila nanonood kung anong nangyayari.

“So mas mabilis yung pagtuto, especially if we put something new, at least nakikita nila kahit hindi nila naeexecute. We prefer and it’s really mandatory na nandito sila every Monday,” the mentor of the 2017 SEA Games team furthered.

Due to this, the staff of the team has yet to formulate a gameplan for the Aussies. A win against either the Boomers or Japan will automatically qualify Gilas to the next stage of the qualifiers.

“I don’t know. Our first plan is to practice everyday and then see if we can get the team complete as soon as possible.”

But as Gilas has proven time and time again, the multi-time PBA champion coach believes that they will overcome once more.

“There’s always challenges naman, especially the situation that we’re in. The PBA’s ongoing and we try to practice,” the soft-spoken tactician shared.

“There will always be challenges but every problem or challenge can be solved naman.”

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Willie Marcial hints at possibility of PBA lending unlimited players to Gilas

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Current PBA officer-in-charge Willie Marcial was a surprise spectator Monday night at the Meralco Gym, as Gilas Pilipinas resumed its’ preparations for the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“Sabi ko sa kanila, hindi ako bisita.

“Magkakasama tayo nung araw pa,” quipped the amiable official.

Marcial’s visit speaks volumes of the PBA’s commitment to the Gilas program even if the pro league is in the midst of recovering from a lengthy impasse late in 2017, where a power struggle in the PBA’s board room took place.

“Ang PBA 100 percent susuportahan yung Gilas. Maniwala kayo. Talagang all out ang PBA diyan,” said the league’s former media bureau chief.

And coming along with that all-out support he had affirmed is the possibility of abolishing the one-player-per-team rule in loaning players to the National Team. That ruling has seemingly limited Gilas in building the best team possible.

“Baka magulat kayo biglang mag-propose sila wala nang limit ang players ‘pag kumuha. Puwedeng mangyari yun.”

When asked if he will be a regular fixture in Gilas practices in the coming weeks, Marcial said that it would be strongly possible, barring any meetings in the league’s office that require his full attention.

“Nako, sinabi ko sa kanila pipilitin ko every Monday nandito ako,” said Marcial, a favorite to become the next PBA commissioner. “Pupunta ako rito every Monday, basta wala lang mga meeting talagang pupuntahan ko sila.

“Tingnan niyo, masaya kami, parang magkakabarkada diba? Sabi ko sa kanila walang problema.”

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June Mar Fajardo returns to Gilas practice

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With just 37 days left before the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, four-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo suited up during the second session of SMART Gilas Pilipinas.

Fajardo was absent during the team’s first practice as he battled the classic case of a flu.

Joining Fajardo were Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Troy Rosario, Jiovani Jalalon, Carl Cruz, Gabe Norwood, Allein Maliksi, and Japeth Aguilar. Roger Pogoy was also in attendance, but was in street clothes.

Not present were Mac Belo and Jayson Castro. Calvin Abueva and Raymond Almazan were also absent for the second straight week.

For the 23 for 2023 cadets, only two were invited for the night’s session.

Reigning NCAA Seniors Basketball MVP CJ Perez was present together with Marinerong Pilipino big man Abu Tratter.

The practice was supervised by assistant coaches Jong Uichico and Josh Reyes. Coach Chot Reyes is currently in Japan.

The PBA’s officer-in-charge Willie Marcial watched on the sidelines.

The Philippines will face Australia at the Margaret Court Arena on February 22. Three days later, the country will host Japan at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

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