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Beermen Finding Groove Without Big Guy, Ready for Christmas Day Showdown

San Miguel dropped two games in the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) Commissioner’s Cup as soon as June Mar Fajardo was sidelined by a fractured left hand. But things have begun to look up for the perennial contenders as the team won their second straight game at the expense of TNT on Sunday to go 2-2 since Fajardo was out. “We’re just trying to put wins together, you know, just trying to play better basketball. I felt like the shock of playing without June Mar was [evident in] those two games that we lost,” Chris Ross told the Inquirer shortly after the 98-93 win over the Tropang Giga at Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

“Now, we’re finally getting used to playing without him,” added the skipper who now concurrently serves as a deputy to coach Jorge Gallent. San Miguel now sits on a 5-3 (win-loss) mark for a share of the No. 4 spot with NorthPort. Up next is a fierce duel against the Phoenix Super LPG side (6-1) that has been on a tear in the conference. And Ross feels that clash will play a big role in determining who they will battle in the knockout stage. “We know we got to play good ball for our seeding heading into the playoffs,” he said. “We just got to go get out there in practice and see how he fits in there, get him used to how we play,” he said of the American. “Hopefully, he’ll be ready for that Christmas game. We’re kinda throwing him into the fire.”

Fajardo, according to Gallent, is expected to rejoin the fold when the team battles Blackwater on Jan. 12. Meanwhile, nine-time PBA champion Alex Cabagnot is taking his talents to the Korean Basketball League (KBL), where he will be playing for Goyang Sono Skygunners as an Asian import. Cabagnot has been in Korea training with his new team. He is expected to make his KBL debut on Dec. 20, and will try to help Goyang improve its 8th place standing. INQ