The San Miguel Beermen went back to their strength of maximizing June Mar Fajardo's dominant inside presence to avoid falling into a 1-3 hole against the TNT KaTropa in the finals.
Fajardo took charge in the second half to steer his team to a 106-101 victory in Game 4. After being held to just six points in the first two periods, he anchored the Beermen's pivotal third-quarter run that broke the game wide open. He also hit the crucial layup that fended off the KaTropa's persistent comeback efforts in the waning seconds.
The five-time MVP, who finished with 22 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the field and seven rebounds, credited his teammates for his improved performance after the break.
"My teammates were looking for me and giving me the ball," said Fajardo. "Even when I'm missing my shots, they were still looking for me and giving me confidence so I needed to repay their trust. It's good that I made baskets so my confidence increased."
TNT's tough defense has made it difficult for Fajardo to impose his will in the paint throughout the series. But Fajardo continues to find ways to make an impact despite his limited touches.
"The coaching staff always reminds me to seal so even if I don't receive the ball, at least I can seal their import. He won't be able to help so our ball-handler will have clear lanes and they can get easy layups," said Fajardo.
San Miguel head coach Leo Austria was happy that their tried-and-tested strategy, which led them to multiple championships in the past, allowed them to equalize the title series at 2-2.
"June Mar was able to play comfortably inside and that's what we need from him," said Austria. "When we won the five-peat or the seven championships, he's the priority in the shaded area for the perimeter shooter to be open and create on their shot, and that's what happened."
Fajardo and the rest of the Beermen know that the job is far from over. They still need two more wins to secure the crown and stay on track of their Grand Slam bid this season.
"It's good that we got this win because it's difficult to be in a 1-3 hole. It's good that we tied the series," said Fajardo. "Hopefully, we can get another win next game. It's not easy but we'll do everything to get that win."