MANILA - Rain or Shine big man Beau Belga had no hesitation in taking the go-ahead three-pointer with just seconds left in their game against Converge, trusting that the work he does in practice will pay off in the moment.
With the Elasto Painters down 77-75, ROS tried for a two-man game between Belga and Rey Nambatac. Belga faked the handoff as Nambatac was well covered, then did another fake to get Converge rookie Jeo Ambohot in the air.
"Nagulat ako sa kanya. Nagulat ako na 'yung shot fake ko, tumalon siya," Belga recalled after the game. "So step back ko, talagang sabi ko, hindi na aabot 'to. Talagang it's either ititira ko 'to, shoot or miss lang talaga 'to."
Belga found himself open for a three-pointer and fired, sinking the shot with 13.4 seconds left to give the Elasto Painters the lead for good, 78-77. It capped a strong game for the Rain or Shine veteran, as he finished with 17 points and made four of his eight three-pointers in the contest.
He noted afterward that the play was originally designed for Nambatac, who has emerged as Rain or Shine's chief option in crunch time situations. Nambatac had already made a big shot with 1:34 left, slicing into the lane for a layup that put them ahead, 75-73.
But with under 20 seconds to go, the guard was well-covered, forcing Belga to make another decision.
"Si Rey naman, pinaghandaan ng Converge all throughout the game, so si Rey naging decoy. Nagkataon na ako 'yung nagkaroon ng tsansa to take the shot," he said.
"Wala namang ibang magagawa na doon kun'di itira mo na," he added. "Kumpiyansa na lang. Kumpiyansa na lang ang nagdala doon."
Belga pointed out that those three-pointers were something he practiced daily, and so it was not surprising for him to see one fall at such a crucial moment.
"Napa-practice din naman araw-araw. Ganoon din naman ang mga tinitira ko din in practice. Sabi ko isang-isa na 'yun, it's either panalo or talo 'to. Ganoon lang ang nasa utak ko kanina," he said.
The Elasto Painters forced Converge into a turnover after Belga's three-pointer, and Santi Santillan split his charities to complete the scoring at 79-77.
Afterward Rain or Shine coach Chris Gavina hailed Belga's decision-making in crunch time, as well as the fearlessness displayed by his veteran.
"I told Beau to read the defense because we knew that Rey would be coming to the ball. Both his man and Rey's man was probably gonna try to deny or double-team Rey. Beau was able to fake the hand off and turn. He got himself open," said the coach.
"The thing I love about Beau, he's never scared of the big moment or making the big shot, which really helped us with this win tonight," he added.