The atmosphere inside the Kia dugout late Wednesday night was electric.
To an untrained eye, it looked as if the Carnival had won the PBA Commissionber’s Cup in sudden death.
The players and members of the coaching staff were ecstatic and only the absence of a popped champagne bottle was proof that Kia just won a game.
But it was a game against the defending champion Purefoods Hotshots, a team oozing with talent and mentored by a fire-breathing coach.
Manny Pacquiao, the playing coach of the expansion ballclub, paused and said a little prayer, putting a momentary stop to the chanting, taunting and teasing.
As soon as Pacquiao ended his prayer, the dressing room reverted to its rock and roll ambience, the starters whopping it up with the bench-warmers, their faces a picture of joy and pride.
Import PJ Ramos’ monstrous showing and the late-game explosion of LA Revilla and Eliud Poligrates were crucial in the 95-84 win.
But it was the presence of Pacquiao and his cameo appearance in the early stage of the second quarter that stood out and remembered the most by those who watched it live.
Pacquiao posted a breakthrough in his young PBA career, winding up with a single marker and an assist in four minutes and 39 seconds on the floor, his lone point coming from the stripe off an Allein Maliksi foul when the 5-6 world welterweight champion went on a baseline drive.
Pacquiao missed the first but his second went in as the sparse crowd went wild.
Pacquiao would later attempt to bury a trey but his shot was short, disappointing even the fans of Purefoods.
But despite his so-so showing two nights ago, Pacquiao was somehow able to turn the Carnival players into a bunch of competent dribblers.