IT was a daunting task alone trying to man the frontcourt for a small Phoenix lineup. What more going up against the most dominant big man in the PBA today.
But Prince Caperal managed to pass both tests with flying colors as he played a key role in the Fuel Masters’ stunning upset of reigning Philippine Cup champion San Miguel, 92-85, on Wednesday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Four inches shorter and several pounds lighter than three-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, Caperal still held his own against the San Miguel giant, good enough to for him to stay until the endgame of the down-the-wire win, the first for the Fuel Masters in the new season.
The third-year big man from Arellano University finished with 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in 29 minutes of play as Phoenix’s starting center.
“Si coach Nic (Belasco, yung big man’s coach namin), sabi niya sa akin, ‘This is a good opportunity for you. You’re up against the three-time MVP.’ So malaking challenge talaga sa akin ito.”
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo still got his usual numbers of 19 points and 23 rebounds, but missed a couple of shots underneath in the stretch as Caperal was around to at the very least make it difficult for him the best way he can.
It wasn’t easy.
“Siyempre naman,” he replied laughing when asked if he had a hard time containing the Cebuano big man down low. “Challenge talaga sa akin.”
It helped too, that Caperal got some pointers from injured big man Doug Kramer prior to the showdown, the veteran center being a former teammate of Fajardo at San Miguel.
“Malaking tulong din si Kuya Doug dahil nagkasama nga sila ni Abai (Fajardo). So sinabi niya yung mga usual tendencies ni June Mar,” said the 23-year-old center.
But he believes team effort by the Fuel Masters factored heavily in the win over the heavily-favored reigning champs.
Caperal noted the 26 assists dished off by Phoenix as compared to the 12 of San Miguel, while also outscoring the bench of the Beermen, 43-24.
Somehow, the numbers negated the 44-28 points advantage San Miguel had inside the paint.
“It was a good team effort. We did pretty good,” he said. “Sobrang ganda ng game na ito, at least nabawi naming yung talo sa Blackwater.”
But it’s just one game. Caperal said the Fuel Masters will savor the victory for a moment, then move on, and getting ready for their next game Sunday against Mahindra.
“Tomorrow is another day, so we have to improve everyday,” he stressed.