Prince Caperal’s refusal to be disheartened by his limited minutes after winning the Most Improved Player and readiness in every situation was rewarded with a vital performance that gave Barangay Ginebra San Miguel the final quarterfinals berth in the PBA Philippine Cup.
With their title-retention bid on the line, Caperal regained the form he showed in last year’s bubble and delivered 19 points in the Gin Kings’ 95-85 win over the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters in a playoff for the No. 8 seed.
Caperal repaid coach Tim Cone’s faith in placing him into the starting lineup by going 8-of-19 from the field highlighted by three triples in 33 minutes, his longest exposure this conference.
The urgency to make up for the absence of Japeth Aguilar due to an MCL sprain and Scottie Thompson, who is the league’s health and safety protocols, also prompted Caperal to rise to the occasion.
“Sa akin lang ang sinasabi ni coach sa amin, pag kay down na player, ‘Next man Up’ mentality,” Caperal said after the game held Saturday, Sept. 25 at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
“Ever snce naman yun ang mantra ko. Pag may down na man, step up sa gameplan. Dun naman tungkol ang team namin,” added the seven-year veteran.
The former journeyman had his coming out party in the 2020 PBA bubble in Angeles City, Pampanga, taking advantage of the absence of Greg Slaughter to average 7.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 22 games to help Ginebra capture the Philippine Cup crown.
But the arrival of Christian Standhardinger in a trade with NorthPort in exchange for Slaughter in the offseason ate up some of Caperal’s playing time, his minutes reduced from almost 23 minutes in 2020 to only nearly 14 this conference.
His numbers also dipped from 5.6 points and 4.4 rebounds in the elimination, even acknowledging some struggles in some games prior to the crucial tiff with the Fuel Masters.
“Ang sa akin lang, may tiwala naman kami kay coach. Ganun rin siya sa amin,” Caperal said when asked if the reduced role affected him through the campaign.
“Ang system niya, kumbaga, trabaho lang ako kung gamitin o hindi gamitin. Basta ready lang lagi. I’ve been struggling pero si coach lagi akong kinakausap kung anong dapat gawin,” added Caperal, who also lauded veterans Joe Devance and Jared Dillinger for also providing some guidance.
Caperal is expected to once again play an important role to keep Ginebra alive, especially with a tough TNT squad which topped the elimination round and holding a twice-to-beat advantage on tap.
With Caperal’s help, Ginebra avoided missing the quarterfinals for the first time since losing in the wildcard round of the 2006 Philippine Cup.