MANILA, Philippines–Nard Pinto went from being a PBA title hunter to a winner on Friday night after Barangay Ginebra defeated his old team Meralco and repeated as Governors’ Cup champion.
The hard-nosed guard relished his first-ever championship, but couldn’t help but feel sorry for his former teammates.
“I’m overjoyed, of course, I’m at a loss for words,” he told reporters on the heels of a 103-92 Game 6 victory inside a packed Mall of Asia Arena.
“But there’s also a bit of sadness. As I’ve always said, I’m close (with the players at Meralco). But that’s basketball. I’m now here with Ginebra. I’m just happy and feel blessed that I was able to become a champion here at Ginebra.”
Pinto was part of the Meralco team that battled Ginebra in the championship series back in 2019, the last edition of the season-ending tournament before the pandemic struck. The Bolts lost that duel in five games.
He then opted to join the Gin Kings after entering free agency in January of this year, ending almost three years playing for Norman Black and the Bolts.
Pinto has been a two-way presence for the crowd darlings in this tournament. His finest performance in the title series was a 10-point, four-rebound, and three-assist job in Game 2.
He finished with five points, seven boards, four assists, and a steal in the clincher.
— PBA (@pbaconnect) April 22, 2022
“The timing’s so good. Remember, we were the sixth (seed) and we crawled our way to here, to become champions,” he said. “It’s not like gaining the No. 1 seed and then becoming a champion.
“This has been tough, like scaling a mountain,” he added.
It could be recalled that during the series kickoff, San Miguel Corp. sports director Al Francis poke fun at Pinto’s transfer to Ginebra, saying he’d ship the guard back to Meralco should the Gin Kings botch their title defense.
Pinto was laughing then. He still was on Friday night.
“He said tonight he’s no longer going to ship me back. You heard it right?” he said of Ginebra’s team governor.
“He said it multiple times,” he added with a chuckle.
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