HE didn’t have an idea of the enormous task ahead, yet it seemed he had prepared for it all along.
Sol Mercado admitted Ginebra coach Tim Cone only informed him that we would defend Allen Durham in Game Two of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals just before the start of the game.
Although surprised, the Ginebra playmaker embraced the challenge and limited the Bolts import to just 22 points on 10-of-24 shooting after exploding for 46 points in the series opener.
“Well, I actually was surprised, coach Tim told me before the game I was gonna guard Durham and I just took the challenge head on,” Mercado said after the 82-79 win in Game Two. “From the beginning, I started on Durham, just trying to get him out of his spots, fronting him and try to make him work.”
“I was trying to run him out of the perimeter, stay in front of him, he’s a really good player,” the six-foot point guard added of the Durham, who stands five inches taller than him.
Durham admitted after the game he was caught off-guard by the Cone ploy, praising Mercado as a 'good defender.'
He was also praised by Cone as "pound for pound one of the strongest (PBA) players out there."
“I take pride in my defense, stay in front of bigger guys and us my strength to prevent them from getting to their spots,” Mercado said, although he deflected credit to his teammates.
“I didn’t guard him all day, we wanted to give him different matchups so he couldn’t get comfortable,” he said. “It was me, Justin, and Japeth guarding him differently throughout the whole game so he wouldn’t be comfortable.”
The defensive effort preserved Mercado’s offensive heroics as he scored the go-ahead basket with 28.2 seconds left - a putback off an LA Tenorio miss.
“I knew they were scrambling LA had to put it up, I had to get to a spot to get an extra possession, and I grabbed it,” Mercado said.