San Miguel Beer ace center June Mar Fajardo returned in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup action on a high note as the Beermen rolled over Lester Prosper-less Terrafirma Dyip, 131-103, at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City Wednesday, November 23.
Prosper was out on health protocols. Thus it was easy for the determined Beermen to secure the win and book a ticket to the post-eliminations round. They climbed to the sixth spot of the team standings with five wins in 10 outings.
San Miguel assistant coach Jorge Gallent said their game plan was to go hard, considering that Terrafirma was playing without their import.
Cruz said, “Gumaan ang lahat dahil nandyan na si June Mar (Everything was lighter with June Mar around).”
June Mar Fajardo shines in return
June Mar Fajardo canned 20 points on top of nine rebounds to mark his successful return from throat surgery.
Jericho Cruz topscored with 25 points while Devon Scott erupted with a triple-double of 21 points, 19 rebounds, and 11 assists as San Miguel inched closer to 6-5 NorthPort at sixth place with only a few games.
Vic Manuel and CJ Perez chipped in 20 and 12, respectively.
Cruz said he also looked forward to Terrence Romeo’s return as the seasoned point guard would also be a great help.
San Miguel will collide with TNT and Meralco in their final elimination round assignments. The Beermen will have to sweep these two games to earn a quarterfinal best-of-three position.
The Dyip leaned on Juami Tiongson who made 28 points.
Myles Powell carries Bay Area
Meanwhile, Myles Powell led the Bay Area Dragons’ 140-108 thrashing win over the TNT with 37 points, which he made in under 37 minutes.
The victory was the Dragons’ fourth straight to end their eliminations bid with a 10-2 record.
Whether the next three placers 8-2 Magnolia and 7-2 Barangay Ginebra catch up with Bay Area at the leaderboard, the latter is assured of a top-two elimination round finish and a twice-to-beat advantage against a lower-ranked squad in the quarterfinals.
Bay Area coach Brian Goorjian said they came to improve as a team, confident to face stiffer competition.
He cited their local Chinese players whom he said have grown so much in the Commissioner’s Cup
The Aussie-American coach added, “I’m really pleased with the development of our young. I’m really thankful for the competition. That’s why we’re here, they’ve really helped us grow.”
Kevin Lam drilled in 22 of his career-high 30 points in the final half as Zhu Songwei, Zheng Qilong, and Duncan Reid added 22, 16, and 10 points, respectively.
In the last 3:59, Powell was benched for good and 7’5 giant Liu Chuanxing was taken out due to an injury earlier.
TNT facing downturn
TNT absorbed its third straight defeat, dropping to 4-7. It will have to beat the Beermen in their Saturday encounter for a chance to reach the quarterfinals. Otherwise, ending the elims with four wins would force a tie for a playoff spot due to superior quotient.
But the worst thing is for Tropang Giga to fail to enter the quarterfinal round for the first time with Chot Reyes as head coach.
Matt Mobley poured in 38 points while Roger Pogoy and JP Erram scored identical 16 markers to no avail as the Dragons were unstoppable.
Jayson Castro, helplessly watching on the sidelines due to a sprained ankle, could not do anything to help salvage TNT’s situation, leaving the Tropang Giga to suffer their worst defeat since the Alaska Aces crushed them, 108-71, in the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals.