June Mar Fajardo carried the San Miguel Beer on his broad shoulders the entire PBA Philippine Cup finals. But he only felt the weight in the final 4.8 seconds of Game 7 on Wednesday, when he botched a pair of free throws that could have cost the Beermen the five-peat.
Paul Lee secured the rebound after his misses, but Chris Ross and Arwind Santos made sure the Magnolia star wouldn't get a clean look. Lee was forced to heave a shot that went short as the San Miguel claimed its fifth straight Philippine Cup title.
Fajardo, who finished with 17 points and a league-record 31 rebounds, heaved a sigh of relief when the buzzer sounded.
"I couldn't feel my legs that time. I was really exhausted," Fajardo said. "But it's not an excuse. I really missed those [free throw] shots. Good thing we won."
In the deciding match, the reigning five-time MVP didn't really need to do the heavy lifting, especially in the homestretch. Alex Cabagnot exploded for 18 points, including the game-clinching baseline jumper. Arwind Santos shot three triples on his way to 17 points.
"Everyone stepped up. We refused to give up. And we're thankful to repeat as champions," Fajardo said.
The series was probably the toughest the Beermen had to play in. The Magnolia Hotshots pushed the defending champions to their limit with their pesky defense.
San Miguel bucked an 11-turnover second period, fought back from 17 points down, and engaged Magnolia in a see-saw affair before sealing the series.
"This is really one of the hardest," said Fajardo.
Santos, a former league MVP, couldn't agree more, saying the series really tested their resolve.
"Aside from the 'Beeracle' this is the hardest championship for us. This tested faith in each other. We had a lot of turnovers but we didn't blame each other. That's what good about the team," Santos said.
"I feel like I will have a flu anytime now. I'm really tired. But we had a good chance to win it all, and we kept that in mind. We trusted each other and won the series."
But Fajardo remains hungry for more, even after bagging seven titles, five MVPs, and various individual accolades with SMB.
"I always tell myself I have yet to win any award or championship, [because] that's what keeps my desire burning. That's what motivates me to improve my game," he said.