By Jonas Terrado
Hobbled June Mar Fajardo need not get off his electric scooter in a hurry. Opponents of the San Miguel Beermen found this out after the opening of the PBA’s 45th season Sunday.
“The reports of SMB’s demise has been greatly exaggerated!!!” Barangay Ginebra San Miguel coach Tim Cone tweeted shortly after the Beermen pounced on the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok to claim a 94-78 victory Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“You can’t keep a great team down,” added Cone, who probably is doing some soul-searching as to how his team can put the clamps down on SMB.
The reports of SMB’s demise has been greatly exaggerated!! You can’t keep a great team down.
— Tim Cone (@manilacone) March 8, 2020
Preseason observations of Magnolia coach Chito Victolero were realized after his team fell by 23 points at one point in the third and saw its comeback attempt thwarted by SMB in the fourth period.
“Diba sabi ko naman sa inyo before na San Miguel is a team to beat pa rin because of their experience, and nakita natin ngayon,” Victolero said after the game.
“I talked to my players na yun yung San Miguel na even without June Mar they can play. And they are very motivated kasi they want to prove something na kahit wala si June Mar, they can win. So mahirap kalaban,” added Victolero.
What made it difficult for Magnolia to counter SMB was the latter’s pragmatic approach, relying mostly on the backcourt led by Terrence Romeo and utilizing the best of what Mo Tautuaa can bring instead of going to the post when Fajardo was still around.
It resulted in Romeo posting 19 points and seven assists and Tautuaa, tasked to fill the void left by Fajardo, making 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“Yung nakitang adjustment ng mga coaches is kailangan namin maglaro ng small ball. Kaya kaming mga guards, gumawa kami ng way para makadiskarte, kung pano pa rin kami ma-involve lahat,” Romeo said.
Romeo entered the game with low expectations since SMB was supposed to deal with a huge problem of not having the best player in the land. He was glad that wasn’t the case.
“Napalaking dagdag kumpiyansa sa amin to dahil hindi namin ineexpect na mananalo kami sa Magnolia,” he said. “Mas okay na manalo ka sa una kesa maghabol ka sa huli kasi yun nga, wala si June Mar na talagang every game bibigyan kami ng mataas na scoring at tutulong sa defense at sa rebounds.
“Ngayon wala kami nun, pero kagandahan lahat kami ready. Lahat kami nag-step up at lahat kami ginampanan namin roles namin.”