THEY may be fierce competitors inside the court who had figured in not a few physical skirmishes during the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
Yet when the smoke of battle cleared, Marc Pingris and Beau Belga - easily two of the best power forwards in the country today – have nothing but respect for each other.
Pingris scored one over Belga on Wednesday night when San Mig Coffee defeated Rain or Shine in Game Six, 93-87, to cop the All-Filipino championship.
Although he did everything to contain the man considered as the energizer of San Mig Coffee, Belga said Pingris obviously wanted the Philippine Cup crown more.
“Mas malaki lang siguro talaga ang puso ni Ping kaysa sa akin,” noted Belga.
Pingris meanwhile, was quick to compliment Belga, saying, “si Beau mabait na tao, naging teammate ko sa Gilas pero kapag laro talaga, hindi ka niya kaibigan. Pero malaki ang respeto ko sa kanya.”
The two actually had a little exchange of words during the pre-finals press conference that saw Belga vowing to play physical against Pingris, even vowing in jest na “babanatan ko 'yan.”
Pingris reacted by saying that whichever team has the heart and hunger for the title will win it all, before taking a jab at the other half of the dreaded `Extra Rice Inc’ frontline by snapping, “kaso si Beau lagi na lang gutom 'yan.”
Of course, everything was all in good fun.
But seriously speaking, Belga admitted having a tough time defending Pingris all series long.
“Halos huminga na ako sa pwet ko eh,” Belga readily acknowledged about his match-up with the 6-foot-4 San Mig star.
“Mahirap depensahan si Ping eh. Kung nasaan siya, dapat nandoon ka. Kapag si Ping, mag-isa lang, marami siyang nagagawa, offensive rebounds tapos magaling gumalaw sa loob,” Belga added.
Talking about Belga’s defense on him, Pingris said the bruising Rain or Shine big man did live up to his promise to play physical against him during the series.
Pingris said Belga was as tough as nail during the Finals, saying at times he got frustrated with how the former Philippine Christian University cager was defending him.
“Tinataga niya ako, masakit eh. So tinataga ko rin siya. Gantihan lang. Gusto ko lang siguro ilabas ‘yung asar ko,” said Pingris.
Nevertheless, the respect for Belga remains, even saying his counterpart is a complete player who fits the Rain or Shine system.
“Bagay din kasi siya sa Rain or Shine. Tumitira, rume-rebound, pumo-post, so hindi mo siya puwedeng balewalain or pabayaan,” said Pingris.
Incidentally, the two could end up becoming teammates with Gilas Pilipinas after coach Chot Reyes included Pingris and Belga in the 17-man pool for the 2014 Fiba-World Cup set in Spain later this year.
But for now, it’s Pingris who’s celebrating.
“Congratulations kay Ping,” Belga said. “All I can say is I did my best against Ping. Wala akong regrets.”