Mendoza: Has Petron become a Fajardo team?

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By Al S. Mendoza

All Write

Friday, December 27, 2013

PETRON Blaze will again play tonight minus June Mar Fajardo, the PBA’s 6’10” man mountain.

Fajardo is a man mountain because, ranged against 7-footer Greg Slaughter and 6’9” Japeth Aguilar, he has the heft and bulk of the Sierra Madre mountains.

It is these endowments that make Fajardo a pillar of strength, an imposing boulder to lean on.

Without Fajardo, Petron is playing wounded—as wounded as Fajardo’s knee.

Without Fajardo, Petron absorbed its first telling defeat—a 97-83 loss to Barangay Ginebra on Wednesday.

All game long, Petron groped for form against Ginebra.

All game long, Petron struggled against a foe it used to beat handily.

All game long, Petron was a cripple without a crutch.

All because Fajardo wasn’t around.

That was a glaring glitch, reinforcing the belief that Petron needs an extra strong reliever for Fajardo if it wishes to continue entertaining championship dreams.

Well, it got Youssef Taha, a tall find from Mapua.

Taha is muscle-bound and, because he is quite tall, he looks suited for the job.

But in his first acid test, against Ginebra on Wednesday, he fumbled, he got blocked by Aguilar, he goofed. In short, he flunked.

When coach Gee Abanilla recalled him to the bench, Taha stormed out of the court. He passed by me, head bowed. I thought he was locker-bound. But suddenly, he stopped, cupped his face and he appeared like he would puke. A waterboy approached him. Gave him bottled water.

Then he walked Taha back to the Petron bench.

Petron will need, will be forced, to lean on Taha more as Doug Kramer is too small for a center. And Fajardo would need at least six more weeks to recover.

After zooming to a 7-0 start, Petron’s streak was snapped in overtime by Air 21. Then came the suffocating loss to Ginebra.

Tonight, Petron stares at the specter of a third straight loss against its nemesis—Talk ‘N Text. Taha should come out of his shell, or Petron is doomed.

For Petron, the bubble of invincibility hasn’t only been burst; it looks like the team is, tragically, a one-man team: June Mar Fajardo.

I’d like to see that disproved. Tonight.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 28, 2013.


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