IF there is one person happy to see old pal Ronnie Matias slowly crack the star-studded roster of San Mig Super Coffee, it's no other than Beau Belga.
Playing his first game with the Mixers since being acquired in a recent trade with GlobalPort, Matias nearly ended up a hero and beating his former team Rain or Shine.
“Muntik na kami ni Ronnie run," said Belga of Matias’ crucial putback in the final 3.3 seconds following a missed alley oop basket by import Marqus Blakely that gave the Mixers a 94-93 lead in their PBA Governors Cup game against the Elasto Painters at the end of the elimination round on Monday night.
“Inaasar ko nga si Ronnie. Sabi ko, 'Hoy, umayos ka naman. Puro ka error.' Tapos sa huli, siya pala muntik-muntikanang puputol sa winning streak namin," added the burly big man.
Matias’ heroic act, though, went down the drain as import AZ Reid nailed a tough looping basket from 20 feet with 1.1 seconds left that proved to be the winning shot as Rain or Shine escaped with a 95-94 victory.
For his part, Matias admitted being surprised at the sudden decision of coach Tim Cone to field him in the dying seconds of a closely-fought contest.
"Alam ko talaga hindi pa ko gagamitin. Tapos biglang tinawag pangalan ko. Napalunok na lang ako sa kaba," said Matias about his first official game with his new team.
"Siyempre, maganda pinakita sa laro ni (fellow new recruit Yousef) Taha. Kaya pinilit ko rin ang sarili ko 'nun na mag step-up rin. Ayaw ko kasi sabihin ng tao na mali ang pagkuha sa akin ng San Mig," he reasoned out.
And though there was big pressure on his part to duplicate what Taha did after the sophomore big man anchored San Mig’s third-quarter rally, Matias said all he wanted was to prove himself.
"Gusto ko talaga ipakita sa San Mig fans na kaya ko din mag-contribute, tapos siyempre yung isa, may gusto akong patunayan sa Rain or Shine dahil nga na-trade nila ako dati," said the former Rain or Shine stalwart, who admitted feeling lost after he was surprisingly traded away by the Elasto Painters last year.
"Gusto ko talaga silang talunin. Sayang nga lang, na-i-shoot pa ni AZ (Reid) 'yung jumper niya. Ganun talaga," he added.
Asked about his first game as a Mixer, Matias, as always, came up with another hilarious punchline.
"Nagulat ako kasi ang tagal pinahinga 'yung mga star players namin, tapos kaming mga moon players ang ginamit sa huli," he said.
"Nanggigil nga ako eh. Gagayahin ko sana `yung mga moves ni James Yap, kaso lang dikit ang laban," he added laughing.
But seriously speaking, Belga said Matias shall be a good addition to San Mig.
"Malaking tulong si Ronnie dun. Basta alam lang gamitin ng coaching staff laro niya, mapapakinabangan 'yun," said Belga of his former 'tropang dulo member' during Rain or Shine practices.
"Nami-miss ko na nga yan si Ronnie eh. Kung pwede nga lang mabalik siya sa team namin, bakit hindi. Wala na tuloy yung grupo namin sa gilid (ng Nega Gym during practice)," he said, referring to their group which also included Paul Lee, Jr Quinahan, Larry Rodriguez, and Chito Jaime, which many dubbed as the noisy 'tropang dulo' during practice days.
Rain or Shine assistant coach Mike Buendia described the group as the noisiest in practice.
"Ang kukulit ng mga 'yun. 'Yun ang grupo na tawanan ng tawanan sa practice. Sila rin 'yung malalakas kumain ng Binalot," said Buendia, pertaining to the daily food supply at Rain or Shine practices.