When Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand checked in with 4:28 and 2:56 left in the third frame respectively, hysteria filled the SMART-Araneta Coliseum on Friday night. The Meralco Bolts were clicking on all cylinders, while the Barangay Ginebra Kings needed a spark to ignite their engine.
And it brought back bad memories for Meralco head coach Norman Black.
“Yeah that was a nightmare for a second. I even told the players we’re not gonna let [these] two guys do this again, are we? They did it to us last year, they came off the bench and came in and made a big difference to help them win the game,” recalled Black.
Last October 14, 2016, the duo of Caguioa and Helterbrand had powered Ginebra’s huge Game 4 comeback that knotted at series to 2-2.
A year and six days later, the narrative was the same, Ginebra were down double digits. And again it was Caguioa and Helterbrand who provided the comeback.
“It felt good. Thats all I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been wanting to play and contribute to the team,” shared Helterbrand.
The 41-year-old Helterbrand and 37-year-old Caguioa combined for eight points while providing the Gin Kings with much-needed energy. However, Ginebra fell short, 83-85, to send the series back to square one.
“Jay and Mark stepped up big time for us. They really turned it for us,” said Ginebra head coach Tim Cone. “Sorry that we could not win the game for them. Tried to strike lightning in a bottle again like last year but we couldn’t do it this time.”
Black, on the other hand, remains wary over what the two Ginebra greats will bring for the rest of the series.
“So they stepped up to make sure it didn’t happen again. Of course there’s two more games to go and Helterbrand and Caguioa will probably play more, but at least it didn’t happen tonight,” he shared.
And Helterbrand, speaking for Caguioa, vows to stay ready, as this might be their last run together.
“Any time I get a chance to play… It doesnt matter man. I’ll go out there and give my all regardless until I can’t run anymore,” Helterbrand said.
“That’s that way I’ve always been and that’s how I’m going to continue to play.”