Prince Caperal best exemplified the next-man-up mentality for Ginebra in its 2021 Honda PBA Philippine Cup sudden death match with Phoenix, Saturday.
The 6-foot-6 slotman made life without star big man Japeth Aguilar easier to bear for the Gin Kings, turning in a stellar performance with 19 points on 42-percent shooting to lead his side to a season-saving 95-85 victory.
Thanks to him, the crowd darlings have pocketed the eighth and last ticket to the quarterfinals. They also forged a duel with no. 1 seed TNT Tropang Giga.
“Sa akin lang, ang sinasabi ni Coach sa amin, ‘pag may down na player, next man up mentality. Ever since naman yun na yung mantra ko,” Caperal said moments after the match at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
“‘Pag may down, step up sa game plan. Doon naman tungkol ang team namin, it’s about the next-man-up mentality kami palagi.”
It was actually his best performance at this conference.
Prior to the knockout game, the 2020 Most Improved Player was only averaging 5.5 points.
Caperal himself is aware that he hasn’t been playing that well. But never did he feel deflated, as he has head coach Tim Cone, plus veterans Joe Devance and Jared Dillinger always pushing him.
“I know the past few games, I’ve been struggling. Pero si Coach, lagi pa rin akong kinakausap kung anong dapat gawin,” he said. “Shout out na lang sa mga teammates ko, and sa mga coaches ko.
“Nag-struggle ako, pero nandyan pa rin sila, may tiwala pa rin,” he furthered.
“Lalo na kina Joe, kina Jared – like kagabi, hinugot nila ako sa kwarto ko. Nagpapahinga na ako, pero nag-video session pa kami.”
That kind of trust definitely boded well for him as it led to remarkable outing. But what Caperal is proud about the most was the never-say-die spirit that the Barangay showed to make sure that their reign won’t end.
“Nadala lang namin siguro ‘yung winning attitude namin. I know we’ve been struggling pero we have one game to play na, ito nga. Na naipakita namin ang talagang Ginebra ngayong game na ‘to,” said the Arellano product.
“Nag-struggle kami pero ang daming beterano sa team namin. Talagang ginrab na lang din namin ang opportunity namin na makapasok sa playoffs.”
Now, Ginebra has its sights set on the quarterfinals. There, it will go up against the Tropang Giga in a twice-to-win disadvantage.
Caperal, though, knows the daunting task awaiting him and his team on Wednesday. Still, he said that defense will be key as they aim to overcome the same squad it took down in five games to rule the bubble play last year.
“‘Yung defense namin ngayon, ma-sustain namin o mas mahigitan pa kasi nanalo kami ngayon sa defense namin. Yun ang nagpapanalo sa amin. Ganoon talaga ang identity ng team namin talagang defense frst,” he said.