IT took eight years for Barangay Ginebra to win another PBA championship.
It took the same time for Sol Mercado to win his first-ever league title.
The Gin Kings playmaker ended his personal wait on Wednesday night when Ginebra lifted its first title since 2008 after outlasting Meralco, 91-88, in Game Six of the Governors’ Cup Finals.
“It's surreal,” Mercado said. “I finally won one.”
The fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft, the Filipino-American point guard spent his first two seasons at Rain or Shine and less than two years after leaving, the Elasto Painters won their first title.
Mercado was poised to win at San Miguel, but was traded before the start of the 2015 Philippine Cup playoffs for Alex Cabagnot on the way to the Beermen’s all-Filipino conquest.
After playing for six teams and getting traded six times, he finally won it with the league’s most popular team, thriving in a fast-paced offense under coach Tim Cone.
“To be honest with you, it’s a miracle from God; you can see God's hand in it and he had purpose for everything throughout my career,” Mercado reflected. “Eight years waiting for this and it was all worth it.”
“I finally found a home and this is the best home,” the journeyman added. “The fans are amazing, it's no secret that we have the best fans and it was all worth it. If my rookie year they told me that I was gonna bounce around from team to team and then end up in Ginebra, I would have said yeah, I'll sign up for it, let's do it.”
The 32-year-old cager did it in his first try in the finals against a worthy opponent in the Bolts.
“This was a great learning experience for us,” Mercado said. “Hats off to Meralco, they're an amazing team and gave us a battle every single night, couldn't have asked for a better opponent.”
Mercado wound up scoreless in 24 minutes in title-clinching game, but it hardly mattered as he left his imprint not just in the entire series, but the whole conference.
And good thing Justin Brownlee was there to save the day.
“When he shot it, I knew it was going in,” Mercado said. “So I was just like let me chase him and let me hug him. As soon as it went in, I just chased him and I grabbed him and I felt like a huge monkey off my back.”
“It's was just relief, ultimate excitement,” he added. “I don't think I've ever been happier in my life.”