(Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
Fajardo's struggles plus a big double-double from Eram enabled the Elite to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Blackwater Elite have been enduring a crazy rollercoaster ride all conference long but they did have a few good wins which are the primary reason why they are still in contention for a spot in the playoffs.
After handing the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings their first defeat of the season a few weeks ago, the Blackwater Elite again, did the impossible as they handed another defeat to another elite team in the PBA, the San Miguel Beermen as the Elite grabbed the win, 106-96. That, by the way, was SMB's second defeat in 8 games which put them tied with the Magnolia Hotshots for the top spot with an identical 6-2 record in the Philippine Cup. On the other hand, the win enabled the Elite to improve to 3-5 which helped keep their chances of making the playoffs alive.
What enabled Blackwater to slay another giant? Below are the numbers:
The Kraken was Tamed
We all know what June Mar Fajardo can do. He's virtually unstoppable and impossible to guard unless you have a Greg Slaughter on your team. In the ongoing Philippine Cup, the Kraken has averaged 24 points and 3 rebounds while leading the league in field goal percentage at 62.8%. He's also the second-leading shot blocker, blocking 2.1 shots per game on the average.
Against the Elite, Fajardo, aiming for his 5th MVP this season, struggled miserably as he only scored 12 points on 3 for 11 field goal shooting. He did have 13 rebounds but that doesn't hide the fact that his struggles on the offensive end were among the reasons why San Miguel lost on top of what Coach Leo Austria said that his boys were "overconfident" heading into their game against Blackwater.
If June Mar Fajardo was literally shooting bricks mostly against the Elite, it was a different story for JP Eram. He had 24 points on 10 for 19 shooting while nailing his lone attempt from the three-point line. He also had 18 REBOUNDS, 12 from the defensive end. Along with those, Eram had 3 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocked shots.
Mike DiGregorio Scored 26 points after getting scolded?
After he was limited to two points against the Magnolia Hotshots, Mike DiGregorio apparently received an earful and a timely advice from none other than his own mother who said that DiGregorio wasn't aggressive enough during that specific game.
True enough. Mike DiGregorio listened and took his mom's words to heart as he scored a career-best 26 points. He struggled from the 2-point area though, going 3 for 10 but made it up from the three-point territory, making 5 of his 9 shots from deep. He scored the final 8 points for the Elite which enabled his team to snap their 4-game losing slide and get back into winning. Maybe Leo Isaac should consider the inclusion of DiGregorio's mother into the coaching staff?
If you look at the team standings right now, Blackwater is standing at the 10th spot. Judging by their final 3 games for this conference, they should be able to get two wins AT LEAST. And if they want to avoid a date against the top-seeded team in the playoffs, getting all three wins is a must.