Stanley Pringle sprung into life when needed, leading Barangay Ginebra past Rain or Shine, 81-73, and into the semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Gym in Angeles City.
Japeth Aguilar finished with a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds, Prince Caperal, Aljon Mariano and Scottie Thompson contributed in a big way as did LA Tenorio on his way to a special niche in the record books.
But clearly, it was Pringle who provided the crucial spark in the endgame that enabled top-seeded Ginebra to avoid a rubber match with its eighth-seeded opponent.
After missing nine of his first 12 shots, Pringle scored on a turnaround and a drive that fully yanked the Kings away from a 72-71 count and into a safe 81-71 lead, only 55 seconds left.
“I’ve said it before, he’s our closer,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone of Pringle, who finished with 10 points, five assists and two rebounds.
“We put the ball in his hands down the stretch and we expect him to close it for us,” added Cone. “We’re not going to force, do that every possession because it gets too exhausting and the defense gets too predictable. But down the stretch we’re gonna figure out a way to try and get him free and allow him to do his thing. That’s what he did.”
Ginebra now awaits the winner of the rubber match between San Miguel Beer and Meralco on Sunday for the best-of-five semifinals duels that start Wednesday.