Sol searching: Pursuit of first-ever finals appearance brings best out of Mercado
Ginebra guard Sol Mercado is averaging 10.6 points per game, 3.3 rebounds, and 5.6 assists through three games so far in the semis. Jaime Campos

HIS yearning for a first-ever finals appearance and the desire to win Ginebra's first championship in almost a decade have been the chief motivation for Sol Mercado to elevate his game in the playoffs opposite defending champion San Miguel Beer.

Mercado has formed with LA Tenorio and rookie Scottie Thompson a deadly Ginebra trio that has so far been proving to be the catalyst for the team that is just a win away from reaching the finals for the first time in three years.

The three combined for 28 of the Kings’ 36 assists in their thrilling 97-96 win over the Beermen in Game Three on Friday behind the last second jumper of big man Japeth Aguilar. They also had 34 points and 22 rebounds among themselves to help the league’s most popular ballclub take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

“I just wanna win man, that’s it. I just wanna do whatever I can to help the team,” said the eight-year veteran, who’s long been wanting to suit up in the finals for the very first time after previous stints with Rain or Shine, Meralco, Globalport, San Miguel, and Barako Bull.

“Never been (in the finals). So one more win, I pray to God that we’ll get it.”

The stocky Fil-Am guard from Sacramento, California is averaging 10.6 points per game, 3.3 rebounds, and 5.6 assists through three games so far in the semis.

But he struggled on the floor the last time, finishing with only two points on 0 for 8 shooting from the field.

Mercado could have gone for the game-winning basket after getting the pass from Tenorio in the dying seconds and the Kings trailing, 96-95. But aware he’s having a bad shooting night, he opted to draw the defense to him, then passed the ball to an open Aguilar on the side at the last second for the win.

“I didn’t wanna shoot a three coz all my shots are missing so I just want to attack. And when I attacked, June Mar (Fajardo) came over, and I saw Japeth wide open. I passed the ball and he made a great shot,” Mercado recalled of the game-winning play for the Kings’ 36th assists for the night.

Defensively, Mercado also did his share.

He disrupted Arwind Santos’ shot off a transition play, a lay-up that the lanky forward usually makes and which could have given the Beermen a three-point cushion. Instead, Ginebra got back possession and made the most out of the game’s final play.  


“I was not hitting my shots, but I felt like I still contributed defensively and get my teammates better,” the ‘Sol Train’ said.

“We’re just hungry to win.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos