JUNE Mar Fajardo would not let San Miguel Beer stray from its course.
The Beermen drew strength from Fajardo's monster game in streaking past NorthPort 113-107 Sunday to assure themselves of another playoff appearance in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fajardo finished with a season-high 40 points on top of 19 rebounds and got plenty of help as SMB sustained its run that started from the midway point of the opening quarter and gained steam as the game wore on.
As a result, the defending champions stretched their winning run to four games and improved to a 6-3 slate overall.
Traditionally, six wins is enough to get one team past the eliminations and that means SMB also extended its own record to a 23rd playoffs appearance.
Not after hurdling a gritty stand by NorthPort.
Despite little rest from a 123-126 double overtime loss to Meralco just last Friday, the Batang Pier mustered a fightback from a 68-83 deficit and kept within two, the last at 105-107, and still threatened at 107-110, still 35 seconds left.
But Chris Ross put the final nail in the form of a triple off Fajardo's third dish of the game that all but sealed the outcome.
Coach Leo Austria said his Beermen have a loftier goal.
"We're still on track of achieving our goal of making the top two," said Austria, already looking forward to the game against Phoenix Pulse on Saturday in Panabo City.
"We'll see what we can do against them," offered Austria, whose team winds up the 11-game eliminations against Alaska on March 27.
"But our focus is one game at a time."
The loss was NorthPort's fifth straight, dropping it to a 2-5 record and in a must-win situation in all its four remaining games.
Mo Tautuaa had a career-game with 28 points and 13 rebounds while Sean Anthony, had 16 points in leading four other Batang Pier who scored in double digits.
Stanley Pringle even flirted with a triple double with 10 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
It's just that SMB didn't let a 0-for-8 start and a 4-18 deficit faze it.
"It's a scary start," admitted Austria. "We didn't have a good start. Usually, when we have a good start we are able to control the game all the way.
"Fortunately, the players' sense of urgency prevailed."
And, of course, Fajardo proved too hot to handle as he wound up with his fourth game with at least 40 points in his career.
Terrence Romeo added 23 points and six rebounds, Marcio Lassiter 15 and Arwind Santos and Kelly Nabong 11 each. Ross only had nine points but issued seven assists. (NC)
San Miguel 113 - Fajardo 40, Romeo 23, Lassiter 15, Santos 11, Nabong 11, Ross 9, Rosser 4, Cabagnot 0, Pessumal 0.
NorthPort 107 - Tautuaa 28, Anthony 16, Bolick 12, Grey 12, Taha 11, Elorde 11, Pringle 10, Lanete 5, Guinto 2, Gabayni 0, Sollano 0.
Quarters: 21-25, 50-54, 84-77, 113-107.