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Right off the bat, Sol Mercado proves he’s a great fit for Ginebra

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The cloud of speculation surrounding Sol Mercado quickly disappeared the moment he entered the floor wearing a Barangay Ginebra uniform for the first time.

All the doubt about his unselfishness — and all the questions on how he will fit in with other guards like LA Tenorio, Mark Caguioa, and Jayjay Helterbrand vanished as he keyed in a crucial run that brought Ginebra back to life, although the team fell short Friday against Alaska.

The Kings were still trailing by 18 when Mercado, Tenorio, and Caguioa began to step on the gas pedal, and brought the team to within 9 during halftime, 45-54.

Mercado gave the squad an extra creator who could attack the rim, and from there open up shots for his teammates. Mercado finished with 8 points, 8 assists, and was a plus-4, despite the Aces leading for the entire contest.

Overall, the Kings, in fact, outscored the Aces 41-26 when the three guards were on the floor all at the same time, and were manhandled 82-58 with different combinations.

“Coach (Frankie Lim) wants to run, and we went small. It is good on defense too with the switching. Everyone on this team is unselfish. If we run we just find the open man, and it is fun basketball,” Mercado quipped of the small roster, which gave Ginebra a flicker of hope.

Mercado, who was acquired from Barako Bull for Joseph Yeo, also said that he will not have any trouble with chemistry, as everyone on the team was willing to give up the leather, although he still has to adjust when it comes to embracing Lim’s system.

“I don’t see any problem. I think we are all going to fit well. It’s a new system. Always, in a new system you have to start trusting it. There are doubts sometimes, but it is a great system. Coach has a great system, and he pays attention to all the details — setting the screens, making the right passes.”

Even Aces Head Coach, Alex Compton, claimed they were forced to adjust once the Kings went small, as they prepared for different combinations on the floor.

“It caused us some problems early when (Orlando Johnson) shifted to the four. When they went quick the became dangerous. It changed the ehole game plan because we were loading on Greg (Slaughter) and Japeth (Aguilar)with Johnson, and not Johnson at the four,” Compton shared.

Slaughter (sprain) and Aguilar (hamstring) were both sidelined, but Johnson fired 50 points in the game, the most for a debuting import, since Darius Rice’s 56 in 2008. Ginebra also took a 22-6 edge in fastbreak points, proving that the small trio was relentless in transition.

On top of it all, Mercado looks forward to achieving a winning record while playing in front of a loyal fanbase.

“It was so great. Though we are undermanned, I think we will be tough to beat once we get chemistry. We got beat on the rebounds pretty bad today and our slow start. But other than that we will be a tough team to beat. It is amazing to play in front of this crowd. It gives you extra energy.”

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