Just like any other game, Stanley Pringle warmed up on Friday by doing his pregame routine: shooting jumpers by his lonesome, away from his teammates, at a basketball court in the arena parking lot.
There’s no superstitious reason why he does this, other than the isolation. Shooting baskets alone meant more reps for the 31-year-old, more room to calibrate his shot, which has been betraying him as of late. Unfortunately for Columbian Dyip, GlobalPort’s opponent that day, Pringle rediscovered his stroke. As his team’s de facto leader, he simply had to.
Pringle scored a career-high 50 points in a blowout win, making history as the first local player to ever score 50 in the PBA since 2004 (the conference-high among locals is Junemar Fajardo’s 37 points). Pringle’s explosion was surprising, but oddly, there was also a sense that it was long overdue, like a dormant volcano raring to spew lava.
No early warning signs of an eruption were evident to start the game; not even subtle hints that something special was forthcoming. In GlobalPort’s first possession, Pringle drove and dished to a teammate for an open 3. Brick. Next time down, Pringle attempted his first shot of the game—an off-the-dribble, pull-up 3 that also bricked.
The first pair of points from Pringle came at the 9:45 mark, when he tested the defense of Rashawn McCarthy by attacking the basket for a left-handed layup. It was a normal start to a game between two teams holding unimpressive win-loss records; two teams fighting for an identity in a league dominated by teams with bigger names and even bigger fanbases.
Midway in the first quarter, Pringle’s first three-pointer dropped unconvincingly, the ball bouncing softly on the rim three times before going in. The second three-pointer was cashed in a minute later in a more decided fashion: a catch-and-shoot over McCarthy’s extended arm that hit all net. Throughout the game, Pringle, always in rhythm, found the space to get a shot off. Nothing was forced, except for one halfcourt heave he had to take to beat the shot clock buzzer.
All in all, Pringle made nine three-pointers in 16 attempts, not only breaking franchise, season, and career records, but also shattering beliefs on his inefficiency.
Those nine three-pointers came in all shapes and sizes. Some came in heat check mode, such as the one taken early in the shot clock with no one else touching the ball but Pringle. That 3 gave GlobalPort a 7-point lead in the second quarter and gave Dyip a lingering headache.
Some were taken late in the shot clock as a last-ditch effort to save a dying possession. And then there are a few that came in superhero spurts, like those back-to-back 3s in the fourth quarter where Pringle, off an inbounds pass from the backcourt, casually dribbled to the top of the key and pulled up as if it was nothing, as if he was shooting all alone at the arena parking lot with no one watching. Then he went on to do the same exact thing in GlobalPort’s next possession. He didn’t go for a third straight, choosing to maturely—and remarkably—practice restraint when he had all the right not to.
When Pringle scored his 48th point (via an and-1 play), GlobalPort was already cruising to a double-digit win. There was no apparent urgency from Pringle’s end to score two more points, another indication of his maturity as the soul of the franchise.
Getting 50 didn’t matter to him, Pringle said after the game, but his coach, Pido Jarencio—who once scored 45 points as a pro—kept him on the floor despite the W already in the books. His teammates egged him on. With less than two minutes left in the game, Pringle’s teammate Sean Anthony was fouled and awarded two free throws. He pleaded with the refs that Pringle, who was in the vicinity of the contact, be allowed to take the shots that would give him the 50. Anthony, devilishly grinning the whole time, was denied of his request, of course.
On the next possession, Pringle deflected a careless pass and then broke free for points 49 and 50, two of the most memorable, easiest points he scored in that game. Anthony cheered him on from behind as if Pringle was about to break the tape at a 100-kilometer marathon. All his teammates jumped up from the bench in celebration. Mo Tautuaa fake-fainted.
The best thing about the 50-point performance was that it didn’t feel like Pringle put on a show, despite Jarencio’s claims after the game. It was a perfect slow burn capped off by a dunk that was both climactic and unnecessary, if only to indulge the crowd and his teammates. He took only 30 shots to get 50, and the damage was evenly spread throughout the game: 11 in the first; 14 in the second; 12 in the third; then 13 more in the fourth.
The ultimate reward of an unleashed Pringle is the newfound freedom to orchestrate the offense and dictate the beat. He’s now GlobalPort’s franchise player, now cleared for takeoff, and he’s embracing it in his own terms, ready to navigate the skies in whichever way he pleases. Pringle may prepare for games in the same manner he’s been used to, but the game has changed now.
The biggest name on the GlobalPort flight manifest has been scratched off, officially, permanently. In its place in bold letters, font size 50, as clear as day: