As SMB enters tough stretch, Leo Austria hopes Fajardo injury isn’t serious

Coach Leo Austria is keeping his fingers crossed that San Miguel Beer’s starting center June Mar Fajardo’s injury won’t be that serious considering that the Beermen are heading to a tough stretch in the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

Fajardo, the 6-foot-10 reigning 2-time PBA MVP, left the game in the 1st half Friday night against Rain or Shine after hurting his right knee.

Without the young San Miguel center, the Beermen lost their 19-point advantage and eventually bowed to the the gritty Elasto Painters, 108-105.

“Before the game, our game plan was to attack their (Elasto Painters) big man at the post, and we have Tyler (Wilkerson) who can shoot from the perimeter and we have a lot of shooters from the perimeter,” Austria said.

Read: June Mar Fajardo leaves SMB-RoS game with right knee injury

“But without June Mar, medyo naging tough para sa amin. Nabago yung setup kaya nag-pick and roll kami kasi we have no big man to go to the post.”

Fajardo accidentally stepped on Wilkerson’s foot just as he was going back on defense midway in the 2nd quarter. He eventually left the Big Dome in the 2nd half to have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) on his right knee at the St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City.

The San Miguel slotman said he may have had a bone bruise on his right knee after having it examined by the team therapist.

But as of posting time, San Miguel team manager Gee Abanilla said Fajardo’s MRI was rescheduled on Saturday.

Read: Leo Austria wary of Rain or Shine’s new import

Austria said the Beermen still have local big men Yancy de Ocampo,JR Reyes and Gabby Espinas to man the post, though it is evident that Fajardo’s absence will make it difficult for them.

San Miguel will be facing Alaska next Wednesday, the first time both squads will clash over a month since the Beermen beat the Aces in the Finals to capture the Philippine Cup championship in historic fashion.

“It’s really tough kasi alam naman natin na after the championship, they (Aces) are a different team right now, especially they have a good import,” explained Austria, whose team currently totes a 3-2 record.

Read: Japeth Aguilar says Ginebra needs to clean up offense after loss

“Mataas ang confidence ng Alaska dahil halos lahat ng teams na kalaban nila parang nilalaro lang nila. And maybe it’s because of their conditioning,” he added.

“For me, they are one of the most conditioned team in the league and they are determined to win the championship. Iyun ang target nila kasi the past 3 championship (series), medyo kinapos sila.”

After the Aces, the Beermen take on the Star Hotshots on Easter Sunday (March 27) before taking on the Barangay Ginebra Kings on April 3. — By Richard Dy

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