Ginebra has been limiting Stanley Pringle’s minutes, but a situation like Game 3 of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals pushed the team to veer away from the plan.
Head coach Tim Cone admitted that the Kings ‘kind of got desperate’ in countering the small-ball TNT, and the league’s winningest mentor was beyond satisfied with what he received from the 36-year-old guard.
The former Best Player of the Conference was thrust into the starting lineup for the first time this conference and went on to submit a personal tourney-high 22 points, three rebounds, and three assists to help the Barangay take the 2-1 lead, 117-103.
“It was about 30 times in the game where I said to myself, do I need to take Stanley out? Do I need to take Stanley out? Because he’s still battling,” said Cone during the postgame presser at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
“He comes off the bench for a purpose, not because we have a better player than him that starts, but he comes off so we can keep his minutes short. Today, we kind of got desperate and started him, and he responded incredibly well.”
The reigning champions have been playing it cautiously with Pringle since he’s suffered major knee injuries in past years, but there’s no denying how impactful and important he remains to the three-peat seekers.
Friday saw him come up with his best scoring night since dropping 20 in Game 5 of the 2022 Commissioner’s Cup Finals, and making it all the more impressive was the fact that he perfectly shot the ball on the way to that outing.
He went 7-for-7 from the field, including 6-for-6 from beyond the arc to help Ginebra shoot a franchise-record 18 treys and sank both of his charities.
“We shot the ball real well tonight from different angles led by Stanley,” said Cone as his star gunner scored half of his points in the first quarter.
“Stanley kept us in the game, got us ahead, kept us in the game during the first half and then hit big shots in the second half,” he added.
Pringle said that he simply focused on making his shots but never thought he’d get off to such a hot start that led the Kings to a 29-19 lead.
“Coach wanted me to come out and be aggressive. I just locked in, I was thinking about the way I can attack and space the floor. … I just put extra focus on hitting the shots, and the shots fell,” said the former scoring champion.
But that performance was somewhat his way of paying back the support he’s been receiving from his teammates, especially during his recovery.
“I’m just on a great team,” said Pringle, who’s been with the club since 2019.
“All my teammates are great players, so whenever I get a chance to come out and hit some shots, it’s not always like that, but when I do, it means a lot.
“Because they’ve been supporting me the whole time with my injury. Whatever I can do to help them, I’ll try to do it,” he added.
The 2023 PBA Governors Cup Finals is live-streamed on SMART Sports.