MARK Caguioa, like any player, would love to be there on the court at crunch time for Barangay Ginebra.
Benched in the endgame in the Gin Kings’ win against Mahindra last week, the star guard knew he had to step up his game, particularly on the defensive end if he were to finish the game for his team.
That he did as Caguioa shone defensively in their 85-70 win over GlobalPort in the PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday night.
“I think he surprised all of us,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said of the veteran guard.
“I was telling him last game, I didn’t play him down the stretch because I didn’t have the trust in him defensively to play down the stretch,” the American mentor admitted. “He said he promises to get better and he'll do it next game, and he did live up to his words.”
Caguioa delivered in an unenviable task to guard Terrence Romeo, arguably the league’s best isolation player, who was held to 10 points on an unacceptable 20-percent shooting.
“He deserves to play down the stretch for his great defensive job,” Cone said of the Filipino-American guard, who had five steals and four boards on top of his 22 points. “He was in the right place, at the right time all the time, battled for loose balls and battled for rebounds.
“That's the Mark we come to expect all of his career,” he added. “I'm very pleased that he's stepping up for us now.”
Caguioa, who turned 36 last Thursday, simply feels rejuvenated, playing for the league’s most successful coach.
“I’m feeling young,” the longtime face of the franchise said. “As for me, I need this kind of game. Not just on offense, but on defense. I’m glad na I was able to contribute on defense kaysa sa offense. Like coach says, there’s no off nights on defense and I’m trying to do that.”
Caguioa, who conspired with LA Tenorio, cited one steal that negated one head-scratching inbound play in the third quarter where he turned the ball over.
“Binawi ko agad yung bad inbound ko with a steal,” he said with a smile. “Kung mayroon ngang Shaqtin A Fool dito, unang-una ako dito.”