STA. ROSA - Prince Caperal and Aljun Mariano are just both making the most out of the minutes suddenly available with the injuries plaguing Ginebra.
Caperal and Mariano again played key roles in Tim Cone's rotation in the Kings' 111-105 win over Meralco that clinched for the defending champions a quarterfinal berth in the PBA Governors Cup at the Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Arena.
With big men Greg Slaughter and Joe Devance still out with injuries, Caperal played solid in the middle for Ginebra by taking on the unenviable task of limiting two-time Best Import Allen Durham.
Mariano, on the other hand, continued to thrive as a starter with Sol Mercado, Art dela Cruz, Jervy Cruz, and rookie Julian Sargent yet to recover from injuries.
"Since dumating naman ako sa Ginebra, pag injured si Greg, lagi naman akong ready to play," said Caperal, who finished with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting and had six rebounds as the Kings improved their league-best record to 7-1.
"Pag may pagkakataon at nabunot ni coach, perform lang ako."
Mariano shared the same mindset.
"Kung sino ang healthy sa team, kung sino yung makakapaglaro, kailangan talagang lumaban," said the third-year guard.
"Ina-accept ko lang naman kung ano yung role na binibigay sa akin ni coach. Pinagbubutihan ko lang kasi dun ako most na makakatulong sa team."
In a way, it also helps develop the character of the team, according to Mariano.
"Kahit kulang-kulang, ang daming nag-i step-up," he said. "Yung ibang players nadedevelop yung laro, yung kumpiyansa."
Caperal and Mariano got special mention from Cone after Ginebral rolled to its fourth straight win minus its key players.
"We're just getting great plays from guys that I don't think anybody expected like Aljon and Prince played really well defending (Allen) Durham," said Cone.
"Were just stepping up for each other and that's what a team is all about. It's not about one guy coming out and doing it every night. It's about somebody else stepping up everynight and somebody else doing it," he added.
"From a coaching standpoint you can't be more pleased than that."
With Ginebra's stalwarts set to return one by one heading to the playoffs, Caperal and Mariano won't mind reverting to their roles as bench players.
"Hindi ko naman iniisip masyado ang playing time," Caperal said. "Nagpapasalamat lang ako sa mga teammates ko at sa mga coaches na nagtiwala sila sa akin."
"OK naman na mabawasan (playing time), basta nananalo kami," said the former University of Santo Tomas forward "As I've said guys are stepping up and its been a fun ride for us so far."