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Gigantic battle takes centerstage

Photograph courtesy of June Mar Fajardo/FB June Mar Fajardo is poised to win an unprecedented seventh PBA MVP trophy.

A titanic duel between June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer and Christian Standhardinger of Barangay Ginebra will spice up the semifinal series of the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup starting today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Although the 6-foot-10 Fajardo will come in as a seven-time Most Valuable Player, he is believed to be the underdog in his personal encounter with the 6-foot-8 Standhardinger as he just recovered from a fractured finger injury that sidelined him for six weeks.

Fajardo and Standhardinger used to play together.

Standhardinger helped the Beermen win two of their four championships with Fajardo as his frontcourt partner.

But Standhardinger truly blossomed when he stepped out of Fajardo’s giant shadows in which he joined NorthPort to emerge as Best Player of the Conference in the 2019 Governors’ Cup. Then, he joined Ginebra, where he won two more titles on top of the Best Player of the Conference award in the 2023 Governors’ Cup and the Finals MVP in the 2023 Commissioner’s Cup.

The Filipino-German Standhardinger is looking to get the better end of the match up with Fajardo, who beat him in last season’s MVP derby, and he wants to carry Ginebra back to the finals as the best revenge for losing the prestigious individual plum.

After all, this is the best opportunity for Standhardinger as he will be in great shape when he battles Fajardo.

But TNT coach Jojo Lastimosa believes that Fajardo will be a tough nut to crack.

“June Mar will still have the inside advantage even if coming off an injury, but C-Stan can force June Mar to run with him where he has the advantage,” Lastimosa told Daily Tribune.

Standhardinger has been posting averages of 17.27 points and 9.64 rebounds during the elimination round while Fajardo, who played only four games and missed seven of their team’s assignments due to the injury, had produced 19.25 points and 11.75 rebounds at the time when he was healthier.

With the stakes getting higher, expect both these players to be at the forefront of their respective squads.

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