MANILA, Philippines — For the first three quarters, Ginebra’s Solomon Mercado has only scored two points in Game Five against Meralco Sunday night.
Mercado was also in the game for 34 minutes — the most logged by a Gin King. He had four fouls too, which is a stark contrast from his Game Four showing, and just two fouls shy from replicating the foul-ridden Game Three performance.
But when the Bolts tried to closed in in the final two minutes of the game, the Filipino-American journeyman sank a triple to spoil Meralco’s efforts and suck whatever hopes the orangemen have left in their tanks dry.
That’s pretty much how the Gin Kings held off the Bolts in the wire-to-wire win at the Big Dome. Every run put into a grounding halt. Every sliver of light eclipsed by a booming shot.
“Actually, right before I shot it, I can hear coach Tim (Cone) yelling, ‘Play to win!’ Mercado said. “We were kind of stagnant the few possessions before that.”
“We were kind of playing not to lose and I was trying to [milk] the clock,” he added. “When I used the ball screen, Jimmy went under. And I shot the three, and it went in, thank God,”
“I’ve been working hard on that, because I know everybody knows my drive. So when I go under, I gotta make them pay,” he said.
“Thankfully, I made them pay.”
The eight-year veteran, who had been in five different teams before Ginebra had struggled most of his career. He had the firepower to help bring his teams deep into the playoffs, but it was never enough to bring him at the summit of it all.
His roller-coaster of a career now has a great chance of meeting a sweet culmination, as the Kings are now one win away from finally ending the title drought of the league’s most popular team — and his, too.
“They’re probably going to bring their best game and play everything they’ve got,” Mercado said of the Bolts — a team he once played for. “We’ve got to play our next game as if it’s our Game 7.”
“I just go to grind it out,” he said. “One more, man.”
One more, and he will finally hoist his first one. That could become his reality on Wednesday. Game 6 will tip-off 7 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum.
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