Nard Pinto had been a picture of consistency for Blackwater as far as three-point shooting was concerned. His confidence from long range was so high he registered a league-best 64.5% shooting from long distance during the elimination round of the PBA Governors' Cup.
But he was nowhere near that kind of player for Blackwater on Tuesday.
His shooting slump picked a bad day to take over. In a 99-103 loss to Magnolia, the pint-sized guard was only 1-of-6 from the three-point arc while missing what could have been the game-winner that would force a rubber match in the quarterfinals.
Import Henry Walker was supposed to drive to the basket but when Mark Barroca aggressively lurched forward to double him, he swung the ball to Pinto, who had all the space to launch a three-pointer.
It was a common play for the Elite: Walker drawing a double team and kicking out to the team's snipers. This time, though, the shot was off and the Hotshots went on to clinch the first semifinal berth.
"I used to hit crucial threes in the past few games. But I don't know why I couldn't make it now. Why now?" said Pinto in Filipno in the aftermath of the game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"But that's just it. Sometimes you make it, sometimes you don't. I wanted to turn back time and take the shot again. I feel I can make it but I can't do anything about it now."
He was naturally crestfallen. It had been a magical conference for the Elite, who raced off to a 4-0 start behind Walker and a slew of shooters including Pinto, Mike DiGregorio, and Roi Sumang. The team was on a resurgence, with its eyes set on a championship run.
But all that was gone after the missed triple.
Blackwater head coach Bong Ramos, though, was quick to console his prized ward.
In fact, Ramos said if the team ends up in the same situation in their future games, he would still trust the former Arellano standout with crucial shots.
"He was hurt at first. But he understood when I explained to him. He told me, 'Coach, thank you for trusting me," Ramos said.
"I told him if that happens again, don't be afraid to take the shot. There are games you make that shot. Today it's not ours. Learn from it. I told him there's still the All-Filipino Conference."
Blackwater is refusing to dwell on that. Ramos said there are many things to be thankful for in the conference that was.
"We just need to work harder. There are many things we have to correct. We need to equip ourselves for the next season," he said.