Game Five of the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup was a battle of attrition, with one team fighting for survival while the other gunning for history.
Every inch of 6-foot-11 June Mar Fajardo was feeling the effects of the game as the minutes went by. And this was the result of constantly facing double, and sometimes triple, teams for the last four games.
But the 28-year-old could not just cave in, as his team was relying on him to lead them back from 23 points down midway through the third frame.
“I know June Mar, hindi ko na kailangang sabihin sa kanya yun ano, dahil alam niya kung bakit nilabas ko siya, dahil gusto kong ipahinga siya ng at least two minutes,” San Miguel head coach Leo Austria recalled, as he opted to rest June Mar late in the third frame. “Paglabas niya, fortunately medyo naka-score kami, na-reduce namin yung kanilang lamang to 14, to 12, naging 10, so this is the time.
“It’s money time, so let’s go to June Mar.”
Fajardo played the entire final frame that saw the Beermen battle back to send the game into overtime. When that was not enough, another five minutes was needed. Still, Fajardo persevered.
As the dust settled, Fajardo had scored 26 of his 42 points in the final 22 minutes of the game while grabbing 20 rebounds.
The 54 minutes he played became worth it, as for the fourth straight time, the Beermen hoisted the Philippine crown.
“Ramdam ko na yung pagod, nag-cra-cramps na ako,” shared Fajardo, who was awarded the Finals Most Valuable Player crown.
“Pero hinahanap ako ng teammates ko kaya kailangan ako mag-produce.
“Buti pumasok yung tira ko kahit madami akong mintis nung first half. Buti pumasok nung fourth until the end,” he added.
And he was immensely grateful to everyone who lifted him during the game — from his teammates and coaches to the fans.
“Thankful ako sa teammates ko na di kami nag give up. Thankful kami sa coaching staff na nag adjust,” expressed Fajardo, who averaged 24.4 points and 16.2 rebounds in the series.
“Siyempre sa management at sa fans laging nandiyan.”