Pringle big for Ginebra in key Game 5 win over Bay Area
Stanley Pringle was jumping for joy as he and teammate Jared Dillinger rushed back to the locker room after Barangay Ginebra moved within a win from completing another championship run.
For Pringle, it was more than just a 101-91 victory over the Bay Area Dragons for a 3-2 lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup title series that excited him the most. It was in the way he contributed — two big triples in the final two minutes that helped seal the deal before 21,823 fans at Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday night.
“It feels good to be back playing at this stage,” Pringle said after finishing with 20 points built on six threes. “This is all I asked for right here: To be on this stage and play again.”
Pringle’s performance came nine months after he was forced to watch Ginebra take the 2022 Governors’ Cup title on the sidelines due to a meniscus tear on his left knee.
And Pringle seemed sentimental after a long road back to being a pivotal player that put the Gin Kings on the cusp of lifting another championship trophy, with the first of two possible clinchers coming in Wednesday’s Game 6 at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“This is my third surgery on this knee,” he continued. “At first, I didn’t really think I could get to this point, but everything’s good at this point,” he said.
Off the bench
He had been playing a lesser role since his return as coach Tim Cone said that the 35-year-old is still far from being at full strength.
But Cone would rather take it than anything else, given what he had done in the game that put the Gin Kings on the verge of a seventh championship under the tutelage of the PBA’s winningest coach.
“He’s still working his way back,” Cone said. “But his 90 percent is better than most guys in the league.
“He’s a natural starter, but we try to bring him off the bench so we can monitor his minutes. But that adds so much depth to our team, to be able to bring a guy like Stanley out and to relieve LA [Tenorio] or Scottie [Thompson]. And we can go to him in big moments like today.”
Çone continued that Pringle, whose minutes increased after “Iron Man” and Ginebra leader Tenorio suffered a groin injury, felt like an ace in the hole.
“He’s definitely a weapon out there that really Bay Area has not seen because he has not played heavy, heavy minutes,” Cone said. “And they don’t know the history of Stanley from a year ago or two years ago of how dynamic he can be.
“So he’s almost like a little secret weapon for us against Bay Area,” added Cone.
Dragons coach Brian Goorjian acknowledged that after Pringle’s first three came when Bay Area reduced an 18-point deficit down to 91-86.
The Dragons, who missed import Andrew Nicholson once more and top playmaker Glen Yang to injuries, opted to double Justin Brownlee, who had 37 points after making 14-of-22 attempts, with Hayden Blankley and Scotty Ewing at the top of the key.
Brownlee decided to share the ball to an open Thompson at the left wing, but the latter went for an extra pass to Pringle for a corner triple that restored order for the Gin Kings and shook off any tension felt by their supporters.
“We didn’t want Brownlee to beat us. He had 37 points, so we doubled him,” Goorjian said before referring to a famous winning play that gave the Chicago Bulls the 1997 NBA championship.
“It’s like Michael Jordan. If somebody else wants to beat you, make it Steve Kerr,” he added. “It was my call.” INQ