THE match-up between two of the acknowledged best power forwards in the PBA today certainly serves as a major sidelight of the Philippine Cup Finals between Rain or Shine and San Mig Coffee.
All eyes will be on Beau Belga and Marc Pingris when the two remaining teams in the season-opening conference collide on Friday night at the start of their best-of-seven series at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Belga and Pingris came up big during the semifinals series that saw both of them step up their games and arrange yet another championship showdown between the Elasto Painters and Mixers, two years since their Governors Cup Finals duel which Rain or Shine won.
And the 6-foot-6 Belga was quick to fire the first salvo in what many sees as a bruising encounter between the two hard-banging forwards.
The former Philippine Christian University admitted watching the do-or-die match between San Mig and Ginebra primarily to look at his possible match-up in the Finals.
“Tinitignan ko kung sino ang babantayan ko, kasi ako makakalaro ko si Ping, babanatan ko yan,” he said jokingly, but a strong statement that definitely brought the house down during the press conference for the PBA Finals Thursday at the Sambokojin Restaurant in Eastwood City.
Ping had his head bowed when Belga made the remark, but noted what the undersized Rain or Shine big man just said.
“Good luck kay Beau kasi babanatan niya raw ako,” he said as the crowd laughed along.
“But seriously, good luck to both teams, especially sa dalawang coaches na ito na sobrang nirerespeto namin,” he said, referring to both coaches Tim Cone and Yeng Guiao.
“Bahala na silang gumawa ng game plan, kami namang mga players kung anong ibigay na assignment sa amin, 'yun lang naman ang ginagawa namin.”
Belga readily agreed with Pingris.
“Kami kasi sa Rain or Shine, may kanya-kanya kaming roles, may kanya-kanya kaming designation. So kung sino ang ibigay sa amin, yun ang paghahandaan namin,” said the Rain or Shine stalwart.
But in the end, it was Pingris who had the last laugh on Belga.
Asked what he thought would be the factors that could make the difference in the Finals, the son-in-law of popular TV host and comedian Vic Sotto was quick to cite two things.
“Kung sino lang talaga 'yung maglalaro ng may puso at kung sino talaga 'yung gutom yun ang mananalo,” he said as he threw a glance at the 'Extra Rice' enforcer. “Kaso, si Beau lagi palang gutom 'yan.”