Leo Austria says June Mar Fajardo insisted on playing in Game 5: ‘Win or lose, I want to be on the court’

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San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo thrilled fans when he came out prior to the start of Game 5 of the SMART BRO PBA Philippine Cup Finals for his team’s shootaround suited up for the game.

It was no tease as the reigning back-to-back PBA MVP actually checked into the game in the first half and eventually finished with 13 points in under 17 minutes of play.

After Fajardo completed his first official game in the title series, SMB coach Leo Austria said that the Beermen had its morale lifted by the return of their 6-foot-10 star center – something that factored into the team beating Alaska, 86-73, for a second straight win in the best-of-seven series.

“They were inspired by June Mar,” Austria told sportswriters after the game. “We didn’t want him to play but he insisted.”

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“Ang sabi niya sa akin, ‘Coach, whatever happens, win or lose, I want to be on the court. I want to help the team.’”

The decision to play caught even Fajardo’s own teammates by surprise as he had been joining the team’s practices in the past two days but still held himself out of live drills.

“Akala namin si June Mar nagbibiro lang then nagulat kami, naglalaro na,” Santos said.

The veteran forward, who had his best game of the series with 22 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and four blocks, could not help but admire the character of Fajardo, his fellow MVP.

“Nakikita k okay June Mar kahit bata pa lang, ang laki ng puso niya,” he said. “Kahit na hindi pa siya 100 percent, ginawa niya makaaya niya to help the team.”

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