The San Miguel Beermen will start defending their Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup crown against the Alaska Aces at 5 p.m. today at the Araneta Coliseum.
Two days after beating rival Rain or Shine, 90-82, in Game 6, San Miguel Beer is now keen to jump into the fray even without the injured June Mar Fajardo.
The Beermen beat the Aces, 80-78, in the sudden death Game 7 of last year’s Philippine Cup finals. SMB also defeated Alaska in four games to win the 2015 conference’s finale—the Governors Cup for its 21st overall title since joining the league in 1975.
“Alaska is absolutely a strong team. It’s evident that they’re a good team in terms of their defense and offense particularly their running game,” San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria told The Manila Times.
“At the same time, Alaska has a clear advantage over us because they have a long rest and preparation. All my players need to step up against Alaska because Jun Mar [Fajardo] is down with a knee injury but we’re still waiting for the doctor’s recommendation. Alaska is also hungry [to win the title].”
Fajardo, who averaged 26.7 points, 15 rebounds and 1.82 blocks per game in the elimination round and semifinals, suffered a left knee injury during the third quarter of Game 6 of the best-of-seven semifinals against Rain or Shine on Friday.
The Beermen still won that game exiting the semifinals with a 4-2 record.
San Miguel Beer team manager Gee Abanilla and San Miguel Corporation officer Alfrancis Chua said that Fajardo’s left knee did not suffer serious damage and it is still possible for him to play in Game 1 of the finals.
“He [Fajardo] can walk and that’s a good sign,” said Chua. “There is a possibility that he could play but we’ll wait for the doctor’s advise.”
“So far, there is no tear in his anterior cruciate ligament or in any of his left leg muscles according to the doctor after seeing the result of the x-ray,” added Abanilla.
Without Fajardo, San Miguel Beer will have to rely on the 6’7 Jay-R Reyes, the 6’8 veteran Yancy De Ocampo, Gabby Espinas, Arwind Santos, Ryan Arana, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Ronald Tubid and Chris Ross.
Alaska coach Alex Compton, on the other hand, will lean on Calvin Abueva, Jayvee Casio, Vic Manuel, Sonny Thoss, RJ Jazul, Chris Banchero, Chris Exciminiano, Cyrus Baguio, Dondon Hontiveros, Eric Menk, and Tony Dela Cruz.
“Last year’s two finals series have been done for a long time, and San Miguel Beer deserved both championships [Philippine Cup and Governors Cup]. This is a new series and a chance for us to try and dethrone them,” said Compton. “Hopefully, we can sustain our effort in this entire conference.”
“But until someone beats San Miguel, they will be the champions. We are hoping we can be the team to do that. We really have to outwork them in this series if we want to have a chance. They will come out with a lot of energy tomorrow,” he added.