NEVER ever underestimate a team known for its never ever say die spirit.
Sol Mercado felt sorry that several fans decided to leave the Mall of Asia Arena when it appeared Star was on its way to forging a do-or-die game against Barangay Ginebra in their Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal playoff on Friday night.
Fortunately for those who stayed, they stood witness to a classic Christmas Day treat.
The Kings, behind Mercado’s hot-shooting hands, dragged the Hotshots into overtime before pulling off a Houdini act when LA Tenorio buried the pressure-packed three-pointer at the buzzer to complete the team’s stunning 92-89 comeback win.
Mercado, who led Ginebra with 17 points, appreciated the people who decided to watch the game in its entirety.
“It was great for the one that stayed, we owed this to them,” said the Fil-Am guard. “We heard them and they boosted us to this win.”
A good part of the 21,808 crowd inside the MOA Arena began heading to the nearest exit the moment James Yap shot one over Chris Ellis off a stepback that made it a 74-61 game for Star with 4:01 left in the game.
“Nakita ko nga some of the fans went home already,” noted LA Tenorio over at the Ginebra bench.
“LOL. I would have probably left too!!!” coach Tim Cone texted later to Spin.ph. “We were really playing so poorly.”
It was still 76-65 at the 2:34 mark when Japeth Aguilar hit two free throws.
Then suddenly, Mercado caught fire and sparked the most memorable comeback in the league’s Christmas Day game-history.
But the Ginebra guard is not the kind who will castigate the fans for giving up on the Kings, saying he understands how they felt.
“(To) the ones that left I’m sure they have plans,” he said with a smile. “I’m sure they’ll be there next game.”
Even Cone regretted people missed seeing a classic.
“Sayang for them. They missed a game for the ages,” he said.