by Jonas Terrado
June Mar Fajardo’s Herculean effort when the going got tough not only made him break the PBA’s longest standing record but also kept San Miguel Beer’s reign in the Philippine Cup for a fifth straight time.
Fajardo persevered amid fatigue and a 17-point third quarter to set a new league mark of 31 rebounds, helping the Beermen escape with a 72-71 win over the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok in Wednesday’s seventh game.
Breaking the old mark of 29 by Marcelo Simbulan in 1975 was enough for Fajardo to earn the nod as the PBA Press Corps-Honda Finals Most Valuable Player.
“Basta tinry ko na yung best ko na kunin yung rebound kasi yun yung trabaho ko ang kumuha ng rebound,” Fajardo said after the hard-fought victory fashioned before a crowd of over 12,000 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
He claimed his third Finals MVP award after averaging 22.9 points, 19.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in the series which saw the Beermen enduring a two-week struggle against the Hotshots.
His record night seemed impossible at the start as Fajardo was hounded by a plethora of defenders and the Beermen’s offense sputtered against the Hotshots’ peskiness on both ends.
But Fajardo, running on fumes, refused to lose and slowly took command of the paint when Magnolia’s offense began to struggle even as San Miguel was able to get its groove during the spirited second half rally.
“Sobrang nakakapagod kasi didipensa pa ako tas mag-oopensa pa ako at daming bumabangga sa akin. Sobrang pagod ako,” Fajardo said.
“Pero iniisip ko na may hinahabol kaming history kaya kailangan i-push ko sarili ko para worth it naman yung pagod namin,” he added.
His perseverance eventually paid off when the Beermen went center court to savor the thrilling win and Fajardo enjoying the spoils of being a champion and the best player of the series.