San Miguel dropped two games in the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) Commissioner’s Cup as soon as June Mar Fajardo was sidelined by a fractured left hand.
But things have begun to look up for the perennial contenders as the Beermen annexed a second straight win at the expense of TNT on Sunday to go 2-2 since the seven-time Most Valuable Player was decommissioned.
“We’re just trying to put wins together, you know, just trying to play better basketball. I felt like the shock of playing without June Mar was [evident in] those two games that we lost,” Chris Ross told the Inquirer shortly after the 98-93 triumph over the Tropang Giga at Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
“Now, we’re finally getting used to playing without him,” added the skipper who now concurrently serves as a deputy to coach Jorge Gallent.
San Miguel overhauled a 10-point first-half deficit and ran away with the win behind the all-game brilliance of import Ivan Aska, Terrence Romeo, CJ Perez and Ross. But as pleased as the veteran guard was for his team’s gallant stand, he was also aware that things are only going to get tougher from here on out.
“We know we got to get to that Top 4. So the last two games we just played were crucial to that [goal],” he pointed out. “And this next one is equally as crucial.”
San Miguel now sits on a 5-3 (win-loss) mark for a share of the No. 4 spot with NorthPort. Up next is a fierce duel against the Phoenix Super LPG side (6-1) that has been on a tear in the conference.
And Ross feels that clash will play a big role in determining who they will battle in the knockout stage.
“We know we got to play good ball for our seeding heading into the playoffs,” he said.
That contest is slated for Christmas Day, a fitting curtain-raiser to the Ginebra-TNT clash where both sides are also scurrying for preferable playoff positioning.
The Beermen, however, will be facing tall odds against the streaking Fuel Masters as they are set to unveil a new import in Bennie Boatwright Jr., which means the club has to go through another round of adjustments to preserve the momentum it has manufactured thus far.
Ross is confident San Miguel and its new reinforcement will do just fine.
“We just got to go get out there in practice and see how he fits in there, get him used to how we play,” he said of the American. “Hopefully, he’ll be ready for that Christmas game. We’re kinda throwing him into the fire.”
Fajardo, according to Gallent, is expected to rejoin the fold when the team battles Blackwater on Jan. 12.
Meanwhile, nine-time PBA champion Alex Cabagnot is taking his talents to the Korean Basketball League (KBL), where he will be playing for Goyang Sono Skygunners as an Asian import.
The 41-year-old guard, who last played for the Terrafirma franchise, replaces Joshua Torralba who recently suffered an injury according to local reports. He averaged 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists throughout nine games in the last Governors’ Cup.
Cabagnot has been in Korea training with his new team. He is expected to make his KBL debut on Dec. 20, and will try to help Goyang improve its 8th place standing. INQ