by Waylon Galvez
There were 7.2 seconds left in Game 1 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals Wednesday and the score was tied, 102-all. The TNT KaTropa play was for import Joshua Smith to get the ball with a handoff pass to more reliable scorers like RR Garcia, Roger Pogoy, or Jayson Castro.
But fate intervened.
San Miguel Beer’s defense reacted swiftly, covering the passing lanes – Marcio Lassiter sealed off Garcia, Arwind Santos denied Roger Pogoy and Chris Ross clamped down on Castro.
With time winding down and nobody to pass to, Smith made his move – which is perhaps what SMB had wanted.
The countermove forced a hurting Smith – hobbled by a ligament tear between the fourth and fifth toes of his right foot – to take matters in his own hands against June Mar Fajardo, SMB’s last line of defense.
From near the top of the key with his back to the basket, Smith turned to his right, took three dribbles to get inside the painted area.
As imposing as Fajardo is with his 6-foot-10, 290-lb frame, the 6-foot-10, 330-lb Smith was stronger.
Picking up the ball, Smith’s broad shoulders slammed against Fajardo’s chest, pushing the SMB center a few inches back and giving the TNT giant enough separation to unleash a semi-hook shot. Basket. 104-102 TNT.
“Wala e, napasok niya,” said Fajardo after the game. “Para sa kanila talaga yun.”
Fajardo, who has stood his ground against some of the biggest players in international basketball while playing for Gilas Pilipinas, was quick to answer when asked if Smith was one of the biggest challenges he has ever encountered.
“Sobrang laki niya, mabigat talaga,” said Fajardo, who collected 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Nevertheless, the Cebu native isn’t losing hope even as he hinted single coverage may not be enough to contain Smith.
“Magaling din yung hook shot niya e, so kailangan talaga mag-adjust kung pano siya i- stop. Siguro i-double team namin siya, siguro magpo-provide ng help. Pero tignan natin kung ano gusto ni coach (Leo Austria).”
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