MARIO West won the game for Meralco on Sunday -- and won a cool US$2,000 for himself in the process.
With the Bolts finding themselves trailing Petron, 111-112, going into the final 5.7 seconds of their PBA Governors Cup game, a top Meralco official guaranteed West the bonus if he can win the game for the team as the Bolts huddled to plot their final play.
'Super Mario' dutifully obliged, driving past Petron defenders Jay Washington, Chris Lutz and Arwind Santos before hitting the layup that won the game for the Bolts, 113-112.
West’s winning basket came moments after the Bolts lost a 16-point lead (65-81) as Mr. Clutch, Alex Cabagnot, buried a long three-pointer to cap a big Petron fightback in the fourth period, 112-111, in the final seconds.
“I thought we’ve lost it all,” recalled the Meralco official shortly after Cabagnot nailed the pressure-packed trey. So he offered West the bonus, which comes up to roughly P84,000, if the import can salvage the game for the Bolts.
The result had no bearing on the Governors Cup title race but the win meant a lot to Meralco, which is looking for respectability two seasons into its membership in Asia's first pro league.
The Bolts not only advanced to the semifinals for the first time, but they also finished the season with a vastly improved 20-23 (win-loss) record after finishing their first season in the league at 13-20.
The high-scoring West, a Georgia Tech product who had stints with the Atlanta Hawks and the New Jersey Nets in the NBA, also got another incentive from the Bolts.
“We’ll get him again if another conference for imports with a 6-3 height limit comes along next year,” assured the Meralco official.