PATIENCE finally paid off for Mac Cardona, who seized the moment for NLEX in its come-from-behind 111-106 win over Rain or Shine in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup on Saturday night.
Failing to see a single minute in the team’s last two games to give more confidence to the young guns, the veteran guard took advantage of his return to the court as he delivered down the stretch to help the Road Warriors play the spoiler’s role – deny the Elasto Painters of clinching an outright semifinal berth.
While most of the spotlight fell on Sean Anthony’s offensive exploits, Cardona also had a hand in the comeback win, especially on defense as he figured in the stop that sealed NLEX’s upset, stealing the leather from Jeff Chan and dishing out to Anthony, who finished with the insurance layup.
“Sabi lang ni coach just stay positive at makukuha ko rin daw yung pagkakataon ko makapaglaro and I showed in this game,” Cardona said. “Nabigyan ako ng opportunity and maganda naman nilaro ko, so very thankful ako kay coach.”
The 34-year-old cager finished with 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting, five boards, four assists, and three steals in 24 minutes.
Road Warriors coach Boyet Fernandez said he relegated Cardona to the bench to give more exposure to rookie Garvo Lanete.
“I really appreciate the way Macmac stepped up today,” Fernandez said. “I appreciate him for the positivity that he’s had.”
Cardona never complained.
“It’s part of the job. We have to be professional about it,” the 11-year pro said. “Hindi ka pwede mag-mukmok sa gilid. Walang makaka-feel sorry for you kung iisipin mo puro negative.”
“Positive lang ako lagi,” he added. “Hindi ako nagi-iisip ng kung anu-ano. Basta kung ginamit ako ni coach, maglalaro ako ng potential kong laro.”
When Fernandez seemed to forget he still had Cardona at his disposal, all it took was a simple reminder from Asi Taulava, who, Cardona said, suggested to Fernandez that the former La Salle star finally play again.
“Whatever hatchet we have against one another, we need all fourteen guys playing,” Taulava said. “That’s the only way we can survive.”
“He stayed focused even though he was in the doghouse, but when he was given an opportunity, he still came to practice hard and worked on his craft, and tonight played a big part at the endgame, great one-on-one defense on Jeff Chan,” he added.
“We need that from Mac in the playoffs,” the ageless slotman said. “We need to come closer together as a team if we’re going to have a chance and crash a lot of parties.”