New SMB death squad in the hunt

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
New SMB death squad in the hunt
June Mar Fajardo.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — San Miguel Beer’s CJ Perez and Vic Manuel get their golden opportunity to scoop their maiden championship in the coming PBA Philippine Cup finals against titleholder TNT and build their own legacy or the multi-titled franchise.

Perez and Manuel came on board last season as the Beermen dismantled the fabled “Death Five” that churned out an All-Filipino five-peat to infuse young blood to join June Mar Fajardo, Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter moving forward.

With the new-look Beermen shooting for their first title in three years, the onus is now on the two, as well as free agent recruits Jericho Cruz and Rodney Brondial and trade acquisitions Robbie Herndon and Simon Enciso, to prove their worth.

“This is a challenge for them. They’re in our team because we believe in them. Now it’s up to them to show kung bakit namin sila kinuha,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria, whose team parted ways with veterans Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot to effect the revamp.

“After all, itong mga players na ito ay gustong manalo ng championship. Pero kailangan pa rin ma-motivate sila (on) the importance of winning a championship. Kung second place ka, hindi ka maaalala ng tao,” said Austria.

Perez, previously with Terrafirma; Manuel, who last played for Phoenix; and Enciso, formerly with Blackwater, are gunning for a breakthrough trophy while Cruz, Herndon and Brondial are eyeing their second. Cruz won his first in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup with Rain or Shine while Brondial and Herndon tasted triumph in the 2018 Governors’ Cup with Magnolia.

SMB’s vanguard Fajardo expressed confidence the latest version of the team’s demolition crew is up for the job in the explosive race-to-four title duel with the Tropang Giga that begins Sunday.

“Proud ako sa mga teammates ko, nag-step up lahat, lalo sa Game 7,” Fajardo said after the Beermen beat Meralco, 100-89, to make the finals.

“Sana tuloy-tuloy hanggang finals. Alam naman nating lahat na hindi ganoon kadali manalo ng championship. Pero gagawin namin ang lahat para makuha yung goal. Alam namin lahat na hindi imposible yun,” he added.


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