SOLOMON Mercado came into Tuesday’s game against NLEX with two things in mind — defend high-scoring import Al Thornton and help Barako Bull get the win.
By the end of the game, the 6-foot-1 guard had ticked off the two items on his “to-do” list.
Barako Bull recovered from a second-half collapse behind Chico Lanete’s endgame heroics to outlast the playoff-bound NLEX side, 91-85.
[See Former Beerman Chico Lanete dims SMB playoff hopes by leading Barako Bull past NLEX]
Mercado played a big role offensively, registering a near double-double of 12 points and nine assists. But he’s much more pleased with his defense on the 6-foot-7 Thornton in a game the Energy couldn’t afford to lose.
“I told coach (Koy Banal) in practice, this guy (Thornton) was the hottest import. I told coach I wanted to guard him, and he put the trust in me,” said Mercado after helping Barako Bull snap a four-game losing skid and revive its playoff hopes after finishing the eliminations at 5-6.
“I guess I did a pretty good job.”
Days before the match, the former Biola University standout said he took the time to study Thornton’s moves by watching videos of the American’s past games.
Noting that the former Los Angeles Clippers forward likes to shoot from the perimeter, Mercado made sure he stayed close to Thornton and deny him the room to operate.
“If you give him space, he can dictate you, so I try to get up on him every time, cut him off because he keeps it with a simple jab and go,” said the 30-year-old Mercado.
“It was a tough, and he hit some tough shots though I guess I caught him on an off night.”
The 31-year-old Thornton finished the game with 24 points, but he shot just 30 percent after going 7-of-23 from the field overall.