Gryann Mendoza was expected to have his signature moment during KCS Computer Specialist-Mandaue’s semis game against ARQ Builders Lapu-Lapu last Tuesday.
However, the 6-foot-1 gunner produced a dud, finishing with just five points on 2-of-9 shooting. Making matters worse, KCS suffered a 52-67 loss to ARQ that disarmed their twice-to-beat advantage.
Mandaue head coach Mike Reyes made sure to let his boys know that the energy they have been showing in the elimination round that led to the second seed was missing.
“Pinakita ni Coach Mike sa amin yung mali namin last game. Kulang kami sa energy, naunahan kami, tapos na-surprise kami na pinisikal kami at tumatakbo sila,” recalled the 30-year-old Mendoza.
For his part, Mendoza had a long talk with Ping Exciminiano — a person who was not just a good friend to him but also has become his mentor.
Mendoza and Exciminiano go a long way.
In Far Eastern University, they were able to play two years together. Then late last year, they were reunited as part of TNT’s practice team.
Through a backroom deal, both Mendoza and Exciminiano ended up in Mandaue.
Knowing Exciminiano and what he does in big time moments, Mendoza requested Reyes to have the 6-foot defensive specialist start alongside him during their do-or-die game, Wednesday evening. Then when dragged into the deep waters by ARQ, he again made a request to bring Exciminiano back in with 3:13 left and KCS clinging to just a 64-62 lead.
“Alam mo, having Ping dito sa team namin, isa siya sa mga hinuhugutan ko ng lakas lalo na pagka-bad game ako. Tumitingin lang ako sa kanya mas lalo nung injured pa siya, tapos okay na ko ulit. Having him cheering for us, malaking bagay na sa amin yun,” shared Mendoza.
“Nung latter part ng game, ni-rerequest ko na kay coach na pasok na si Ping. Alam naman ni coach na kailangan namin siya sa pangdiinan. Malaking factor talaga siya sa akin kasi sobrang sipag niya.”
With the duo on the floor, KCS went on a 10-2 endgame run to punch their ticket to the finals. Mendoza finished with 25 points on 9-of-16 along with eight boards while Exciminiano helped limit Reed Juntilla to just 22 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
There will be no rest for the weary however as KCS moves on to face MJAS Zenith-Talisay in the best-of-three Visayas Finals beginning on Friday.
For Mendoza, it’s the moment he and Exciminiano have been waiting for.
“Malaking opportunity talaga ito. Pero as of now, wala pa sa isip ko yan e kasi nasa cloud nine pa ako ngayon. Pero for sure, malaking bagay ito para sa career namin,” he said.
“Excited ako na maramdaman yung panalo sa kanila. Yun yung motivation ko — maramdaman yung feeling na matalo sila. From there, bahala na.”