MANILA, Philippines — Reigning PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo came alive in the fourth, just in time to help the San Miguel Beermen to an 87-81 victory over the Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 semifinals of the 2015 PBA Philippine Cup on Sunday, December 21 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The big man was the primary target for the Texters' defensive game plan and was limited to just 5 points for the first 3 quarters before he broke his silence with 10 points in the payoff period to finish with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Fajardo struggled to score and went two-of-11 from the field but he made up for it with a perfect 11-of-11 from the foul line, including 6 crucial free throws in the final 3 minutes.
"We anticipated that they will stop June Mar Fajardo in the post," said San Miguel head coach Leo Austria. "They were double-teaming and triple-teaming, and they were successful in that because June Mar had a lot of turnovers."
Fajardo's steady performance in the last 12 minutes proved crucial as Talk 'N Text tried to even the series coming off a blowout loss in Game 1.
"It's a nice game and fortunately we were able to snag this one," Austria said.
Veteran guard Alex Cabagnot, who returned to San Miguel from Globalport in a trade before the playoffs, exploded with 21 points off the bench.
Chris Lutz quietly chipped in 14 points and 4 rebounds while former MVP Arwind Santos had 10 markers and 7 boards across his name.
Unlike the first game, the Beermen could not shake off the Texters even as they built a 70-63 lead early in the fourth after a Marcio Lassiter triple.
Jayson Castro, who had a game-high 26 points and 9 assists, countered with back-to-back treys to come to within 69-70 with 8:42 to go.
The last deadlock was at the 8:16 mark of the fourth when Kelly Williams scored his only two points of the game, 71-all.
Talk 'N Text had multiple opportunities to score but was unable to convert their shots.
"They did not give up. The good thing with the team is their composure is always there," Austria said. "We will try our best to stop what game plan they're going to do. We will watch the tape and we will know what happens next."
Jay Washington and rookie Matt Ganuelas-Rosser paced Talk 'N Text with 17 and 11 markers, respectively.
SAN MIGUEL BEER (87): Cabagnot 21, Fajardo 15, Lutz 14, Santos 10, Lassiter 8, Tubid 7, Fortuna 5, Pascual 3, Maierhofer 2, Ross 2, Kramer 0, Omolon 0, Chua 0, Semerad 0.
TALK N' TEXT (81): Castro 26, Washington 17, Rosser 11, De Ocampo 10, Carey 6, Fonacier 4, Aban 3, Williams 2, Seigle 2, Alapag 0, Alas 0, Reyes R.J. 0, Reyes R. 0, Espiritu 0.
Quarter scores: 25-19, 41-40, 63-61, 87-81.
Here are some photos of the game taken by Nuki Sabio/PBA Images
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San Miguel Beer vs Talk 'N Text PBA PH Cup semifinals: