Defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel secured the eighth and final quarterfinals berth in the PBA Philippine Cup after taking down Phoenix Super LPG, 95-85, in their playoff match Saturday, Sept. 25 at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Prince Caperal, whose minutes have dipped this conference after winning last season’s Most Improved Player award, rose to the occasion in the absence of two key players with 19 points in a vital performance that kept the Gin Kings alive at least for another game.
Main weapons Stanley Pringle and Christian Standhardinger were also key, as was veteran Jared Dillinger as Ginebra avoided an embarrassing exit and extended its streak of consecutive quarterfinal appearances to 37 conferences.
“This is not what we’ve expected. We didn’t expect to be in this kind of game coming into this thing but you have a choice. You either go on or back off and our guys decided to keep going,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
The reward for barely making it to the quarters is an encounter with last year’s finals opponent TNT, which not only topped the elims with a 10-1 record but also carry a twice-to-beat advantage.
Ginebra’s victory came even without Japeth Aguilar, who has been ruled out for the rest of the conference due to an MCL sprain and returned to Manila on the eve of the match to undergo treatment.
The Gin Kings were also without Scottie Thompson for the second straight game after being placed under the league’s health and safety protocols.
But Caperal came through when it mattered for Ginebra by scoring a conference-high after averaging just 5.6 points and 4.4 rebounds in 15 minutes during the eliminations.
Caperal combined with Pringle for 19 points in the first half that saw the Gin Kings lead 49-38 at the half.
The Fuel Masters made a minor run in the third with a Jansen Rios triple reducing the deficit to 84-80, only for the Gin Kings to stay afloat the rest of the way.
Pringle had 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists, Standhardinger produced 15 points and 12 rebounds while Dillinger added 13.
Cone lauded his team’s defensive effort against two of Phoenix’s main players in Jason Perkins and Matthew Wright.
Perkins was 5-of-14 despite 15 points while Wright was held scoreless in the first half before finishing with 14 points on 5-of-22 shooting.
Like Ginebra, Phoenix was shorthanded with Vic Manuel out with groin problem and center Justin Chua entering the league’s health and safety protocols.
GINEBRA 95 — Caperal 19, Pringle 17, Standhardinger 15, Dillinger 13, Tenorio 9, Mariano 8, Devance 8, Ayaay 4, Chan 2.
PHOENIX 85 — Perkins 15, Banchero 14, Wright 14, Jazul 12, Pascual 11, Demusis 9, Muyang 5, Rios 3, Garcia 2, Calisaan 0.
Quarters: 22-20, 49-38, 79-66, 95-85.