FROM a doubtful starter to game hero.
That was Barangay Ginebra forward Mac Baracael who unknown to many was suffering from back spasms when he hit the game-winning free throws in a controversial 101-100 win over Rain or Shine on Sunday night.
The former Gilas mainstay, in fact, failed to finish Ginebra's practice last Thursday at the Xavier School gym due to nagging pain in his back and was paced by coach Ato Agustin for much of the match.
"Sobrang sakit talaga ito. Halos hindi ko nga maigalaw," said the former Far Eastern University star who was acquired in a trade from Alaska this season.
"Hindi talaga ako gaano magamit kasi alam ni coach yung iniinda ko kaya nagulat ako nung tinawag ako sa last play."
Asked to spell rookie Chris Ellis in the final two seconds, the 6-3 forward drew a foul from Rain or Shine banger Beau Belga as he threw up a desperation three-point shot just before the buzzer.
The call was met with howls of protest but Baracael was convinced there was indeed a foul in the play.
"Meron. Natapal niya (Belga) kaunti bola tapos tinamaan n'ya ako dito," said Baracael pointing to his hand.
Baracael admitted the moment when he stood at the line to shoot the free throws were the most nerve-wracking of his two-year PBA career, and was happy not to let the legion of Ginebra fans down.
"Ang lakas talaga ng pressure sa kamay ko noon," he said. "Kaso, iniisip ko kailangan ko ipasok ... ang daming umaasa eh.
"Pati nga sakit sa likod ko, di ko na ininda," he added laughing.