Down by eight in the final 1:13, 76-68 and struggling to hit their outside shots, Barangay Ginebra definitely looked like they were on their way to a win-or-go-home match.
The Star Hotshots clamped down defensively on Ginebra and appeared to be moments away from negating Ginebra’s twice-to-beat edge and forcing a rubber match. But that was when Ginebra was finally able to put the ball in the hoop.
“We just started hitting shots. The crowd kept us in it and we never gave up,” Sol Mercado said. “I had a few in and out. Once I saw one go in, I said, finally.”
Mercado was part of a miraculous comeback by Ginebra, which forced overtime by closing the match on a 12-4 run. Mercado himself had nine points under the final minute, including two triples before Scottie Thompson tied the match at 80-all with a steal off a Star inbounds play.
The team trailed by as much as 18 in the final period but did not surrender even if they kept missing from the outside. Mercado even had a chance to steal the win in regulation when he pickpocketed James Yap with 3.4 seconds left although his rushed layup bounced out in the final moment.
“I really don’t know how I missed it. Maybe I was going too fast. I can’t believe I missed it,” Mercado shared.
Mercado hit two more treys in the overtime period and assisted on LA Tenorio’s game-winning triple which completed an epic comeback in front of 21,808 people at the Mall of Asia Arena Friday night, a PBA record for attendance in games played inside the venue.
Mercado scored 15 of his 17 points in the final six minutes of the match and also had six rebounds and five assists. He shot 4-for-9 from three-point area. Ginebra as a team was 11-for-39 from deep.
Mercado thanked the fans who stayed to witness the never-say-die showcase.
“It was great for the ones that stayed. We owe this to them. The ones that left, I’m sure they have plans and they missed out,” he said.
Still basking in the glory, Mercado knows Ginebra should maintain its focus as it heads to the second phase of the quarter-finals. One thing is for sure: they’ll be bringing huge momentum heading into the next game.
“I am just blessed we are able to pull this one out. It’s great for the fans and to be part of this but we have to focus on Globalport.”
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