Prince Caperal rose to the occasion as he played big in the do-or-die game, which Barangay Ginebra won against the Phoenix Fuel Masters to keep their title defense alive, 95-85.
Hailed as the Most Improved Player last season after helping Barangay Ginebra bring home the Philippine Cup championship, Caperal has taken a back seat and his minutes dwindle with the addition of star big man Christian Standhardinger.
But when called upon, Caperal delivers.
“Ever since naman yun ang mantra ko e, kapag may down, step up. Yun naman ang tungkol sa team namin, it’s about next man up mentality lagi,” he said.
Caperal was a picture of consistency and played his best game of the season, finishing with 19 points to lead the Gin Kings.
The 6’7” center from Arellano also grabbed four rebounds, and made three from beyond the arc while shooting 8-of-19 from the field as he filled the void left by injured frontcourt mate Japeth Aguilar (sprained MCL).
He may have less exposure this conference, but his trust in coach Tim Cone remains the same.
“Kumbaga ako trabaho lang, kung gamitin. Kung hindi naman gamitin, ready lang lagi,” said Caperal.
“I know the past few games, I’ve been struggling, pero si coach lagi naman akong kinakausap kung ano ang dapat kong gawin,” he said. “Sa akin naman, larong lang naman ako, e. kahit elimination pa yan or ano.”
But on the eve of Barangay Ginebra’s most important game in the PBA Philippine Cup, back-up big man Prince Caperal was told he would be part of the team’s starting unit.
“We started Prince for the first time. Yesterday (Friday), I told him we would give him a start. I told him we need to find a way to get your confidence going, so we’re going to start you in the game,” said the Ginebra coach.
And it happened to be a brilliant decision for the multi-titled coach as Caperal got his confidence going, and so was his game.