IS Prince Caperal the new Fajardo stopper?
With injured Barangay Ginebra teammate Greg Slaughter still out of the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals, Caperal again embraced the daunting task of trying to contain the league’s four-time MVP as the Kings finally scored a breakthrough win in the best-of-seven series by beating San Miguel, 95-87.
Caperal didn’t produce a career game the way he did in an overtime loss to the Beermen the last time out, but held his own trying to keep the 6-foot-10 Fajardo from once again dominating the paint.
By the end of Game 3, the center out of Arellano University could only hope he did his role the way coach Tim Cone wanted it to be.
“Sana mahirapan man lang siya, yun lang talaga ang role ko,” said Caperal, who scored 12 points and four rebounds while going 2-of-2 from the three-point range. His last trey, made with the shot clock winding down, bailed out Ginebra after SMB came within three points in the dying minutes.
Fajardo did get his numbers of 23 points and 16 rebounds, both team highs, but was not as dominant as he was the last time when he torched the Kings for 33 points and 19 rebounds.
“June Mar naman kasi (yun), four-time MVP. So mahirap talaga bantayan yan,” said Caperal. “Pero yung familiarity siyempre nandun na rin yun. Tingnan nyo nga naka-ilang score siya kanina pero grabe pa rin. Kahit na ilang games na kaming magka-bantayan.”
But Caperal appeared to have gained the trust of Cone, who started him for the second straight time.
“The first game he was a revelation because of his ability t shoot the ball and pull June Mar away from the basket,” said Cone of Caperal registering a career-high of 26 points in a losing cause in Game 2.
“Tonight he was another revelation because he stuck his nose in the defensive side and he did his work. The shots weren’t falling that much, but he made up for it on the defensive side,” added the Ginebra coach. “Yeah, very special two games for him.”
More than anything else, Caperal was happy about the win.
“Nung last game, mixed emotions. Siyempre breakout game mo, yun nga lang talo. Pero this game, feels good na nanalo din kami. So focus na kami sa susunod,” he stressed.
Expect Caperal to continue playing a central role for Ginebra, more so if Slaughter sits out.
“He’ll continue to be a key in the series as long as Greg is out,” said Cone.