Sol Mercado takes solace in close losses to Star despite Ginebra not playing at its best
Sol Mercado remained confident as Ginebra hasn't played its best yet suffered only close losses to Star. Jaime Campos

SOL Mercado stood defiant, believing Barangay Ginebra remains very much alive in its PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series against Star despite going down in the first two games.

The Gin Kings, who lost by four points in the series opener, lost another close game on Saturday night, 91-89, but the veteran playmaker can take solace in just that – losing by only a slim margin.

“We’re still confident,” Mercado beamed. “We haven’t played our best game and we’re still just one possession, [one] stop away from winning the game, so we continue to believe that we can do this, and take it for next game.”

Mercado, who finished with six points, three boards, one steal in 21 minutes off the bench, came through in the fourth period, scoring a layup that tied the game at 79-79, one of the 10 deadlocks in the game, with a little over seven minutes left.

The Filipino-American point guard had a chance to tie it again with the game approaching the one-minute mark, but he missed a layup that led to Paul Lee finish a breakaway layup that gave the Hotshots a two-possession lead on the way to the hard-fought win.

[See Star proves steadier in another slim win against Ginebra to take 2-0 semis lead]

Those were the times the Gin Kings could turn to someone like Joe Devance, who’s out with a foot injury.

“There’s not a word we can put on his importance. He’s our glue guy. Everybody knows that about Joe,” Mercado said. “He’s someone that does stuff that doesn’t show up on the stats sheet. He sets great screens, he gets us into our offense, he gets the high-low passes to Japeth. Defensively, he’s our anchor. A lot of people don’t know that.

“We’re missing him big time,” he added.

With Devance expected to still be out in Game Three Monday, the Gin Kings have nowhere else to turn to but themselves as they try to pull a game back.

“When you’re down zero-two, you can’t get go down zero-three, so it’s definitely a must-win next game,” Mercaod said.

“It really doesn’t come down to Xs and Os anymore,” he added. “It’s just a matter of who wants it more. We have to want it more next game. We have to get all the fifty-fifty balls, we have to play our best game.”

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[See Helterbrand quick to rally Ginebra despite o-2 hole against Star]

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos