Bay Area may have drawn the first blood in its series against San Miguel Beer but head coach Brian Goorjian believes they are now facing a different team in the Beermen with June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo back in tow.
Unlike in their first meeting where Bay Area destroyed SMB, 113-87, the Dragons saw themselves trailing for the most part of the contest, even staring at a deficit that went to as many as 16 points before they managed to pull themselves together for two huge defensive stops down the stretch that completed their comeback, 103-102.
And one big reason for the sudden shift in SMB’s firepower was the existence of the wide-bodied Fajardo inside the court.
“He’s an animal. He’s a beast. When I say that in a really good way. He’s just got a great temperament,” Goorjian said of Fajardo who just finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Fajardo may have not scored much for SMB but according to Goorjian, his presence alone inside the paint was already making a great impact to the team. In fact, it was when Fajardo was forced to sit down after being saddled by foul trouble that Bay Area actually made the run that erased SMB's lead.
“(He) just works that low block and even when he’s not scoring, the defense just opens up all those perimeter shooters because you're gonna go down in there and dig on it. It was a much different experience with him and (Devon) Scott than the last time we played them,” explained Goorjian.
With the six-time MVP throwing his weight around inside the paint and attracting all the Dragon’s defense, the SMB snipers were left with plenty of space to shoot – something that guys like Romeo, Marcio Lassiter and CJ Perez made sure to willingly pounce on.
Perez went on to finish with 24 points to lead the Beermen. Romeo added 21 built on four triples while Lassiter fired 16 points in a losing effort.
Among the SMB shooters though, it was Romeo, another returning star for the Beermen and the one behind his team's blistering first half, who certainly caught the attention of the veteran mentor.
“I heard about Romeo, these new guys coming in and I saw the glimpse in the first game with him on that floor. He’s dynamic, so good with the ball, dynamic passer and unbelievable touch. The 15 point lead was really off his back in that late second quarter and early in the third quarter so that’s another headache for us in the long term. Tremendous player,” Goorjian commented.