EVERY single fan at the Mall of Asia Arena – and the scores who watched the game on television – couldn’t believe Sol Mercado can miss an easy breakaway layup in the waning seconds of regulation during the Ginebra-Star PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal playoffs.
But even Mercado himself was surprised not to make the basket that could have won the game outright for the never-say-die Kings.
“I really don’t know I’ll miss it, yeah,” he said in between sighs when asked about the final play of the fourth quarter when he picked up a loose ball off James Yap and went straight to the basket with the score tied at 80. “I can’t believe I’ll miss that.”
To the horror of the Ginebra bench – and its legion of fans – the shot didn’t go in, leaving a fallen Mercado on the floor in disbelief heading into overtime.
“It broke my heart,” he said of the missed shot. “I didn’t know if I was going too fast.”
Until the start of the extra period, the stocky Fil-Am guard admitted still thinking about that missed opportunity, but picked himself up by saying to himself, ‘God has a purpose for everything.’
Mercado stayed focused in the extra five minutes and hit six points – both on three-pointers – including the one that tied the game for the last time at 89.
He later dished off to an open LA Tenorio at the left flank in Ginebra’s final play, and the heady point guard buried the game-winning trey that ousted the Hotshots from the race for the two remaining semifinal berths.
Mercado was scoreless in the first three quarters but poured in all of his game-high 17 points in the fourth period and in overtime.
“I just started hitting shots,” he said about the remarkable turnaround that capped Ginebra’s comeback from 18 points down.
And given another chance of going for another open layup, Mercado said the same thing won’t happen again.
“If I get it again, I’m sure I’ll probably make it,” he said.