ASTANA – June Mar Fajardo had towels all over him and was being attended by a Gilas support staff member while celebration was happening in the Gilas dugout shortly after its conquest of Kazakhstan.
As Fajardo was still battling flu when he played quality minutes in their crucial 93-75 win over the Kazakhs at the close of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
“Kailangan (lumaro) dahil kailangan natin manalo. Crucial na crucial ang laban,” said Fajardo.
The five-time PBA MVP winner didn’t just play. The SMB behemoth was instrumental as he held the fort when Andray Blatche picked up a fourth foul with 3:45 left in the third period.
Gilas was ahead by just six at 60-54 when Fajardo joined forces with Jayson Castro in a key 11-4 tear to ease the pressure for the Nationals.
He made another basket to touch off a 9-3 binge at the start of the fourth quarter, and the Nationals stayed in control throughout to clinch the win that handed them a berth to the 2019 World Cup in China later this year.
“Nag-worry ako nung na-foul trouble si Blatche. But June Mar did a good job when he took over,” said Gilas coach Yeng Guiao.
“He allowed Andray to rest for seven to eight minutes to avoid getting another foul. So June Mar was really instrumental,” Guiao added.
Fajardo attacked the defense of Askar Maidekin at the post, going 3-of-5 from the field and 3-of-6 from the stripe for nine points that went with seven rebounds and one assist against one error. (SB/Text and photo from pba.ph)