GREG Slaughter and Sol Mercado made a rousing debut for Barangay Ginebra in their first game back from respective injuries on Sunday.
In his first game in nearly two months after being out with a severe ankle injury, Slaughter finished with 11 points and nine rebounds to help the Gin Kings to a 93-86 win over Magnolia on Sunday in a match-up between rival teams. The victory allowed Ginebra to capture the twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Not to be outdone, Mercado had nine points, seven coming in the third quarter in his first game of the conference after suffering a torn meniscus in his knee.
Slaughter hardly missed a step as he was coming off an ankle sprain he sustained early September in a match against NorthPort. On the other hand, Mercado hit five straight points in a big 18-6 closeout for Ginebra in the third to maintain their lead.
“Happy,” said Slaughter. “I’m glad we picked up the win. I think this guarantees us the top four. That was our goal even before the season started. It’s good to get it.
Mercado said: “It felt like I was out for a long time. Just a little timing thing just to get my rhythm and timing back. That was possibly the main thing. But strength-wise, my knee felt good.
“It felt good to contribute. Just taking the shots that were given to me. Felt like I was open and luckily, I knocked them down,” Mercado added.
Slaughter said he no longer feels any pain from his foot following after missing six games due to the injury. The Ginebra center also cited the long break in between games to his full recovery as the Gin Kings had a 16-day break after their loss to Rain or Shine last October 12.
“I feel good. I feel like I need to be better too. Just take it one game at a time and keep our goal in mind and want to win this championship,” said Slaughter.
“Coach Tim really let me do a lot of extra, got a lot of instructions form him, able to get some rhythm back just from practicing. Its good to apply that to the game so that I can really find my rhythm,” he added.
Mercado seconded Slaughter’s statements.
“We had like 13 or some days since our last game against Rain or Shine. Me and Greg really able to get some full practice. But nothing is like game speed. It’s hard to emulate game speed. It’s different when you get out there. It’s good to get some good practice time in before I got out there,” Mercado said.
Despite getting the twice-to-beat advantage, Slaughter and Mercado agreed the incentive won’t make the road to the title easy.
“One thing we’ve learned through the recent championships is that nothing is easy. It’s never easy winning a championship. We know that and having a good seeding isn’t going to satisfy us. We are aiming to win it again,” said Slaughter.
“That’s what we worked for this whole conference, to try and get the top four. That’s one of our immediate goals reach. But obviously, that’s not the ultimate goal. It just puts us in a position to have a pretty good advantage going into the playoffs,” Mercado added.
Ginebra will have one more game in the eliminations when the Kings face TNT next Sunday.