'Leader' Beau Belga comes up big for Rain or Shine

Big Beau's big baskets (1:12)

Beau Belga hit a couple of key baskets in overtime to lead Rain or Shine over Ginebra. (1:12)

Beau Belga has never been afraid to show his emotions in a game. He always plays with a chip on his shoulder and a determination to never lose. And after Rain or Shine's bold victory over Barangay Ginebra on Tuesday night, the big man also revealed that he has the heart of a leader.

The PBA veteran emerged as the hero for the Elasto Painters in their 85-82 overtime win, coming up with huge baskets late. Belga posted 20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, plus two steals, and drilled five straight points in overtime that propelled his team.

"We just bounced back from the loss in our last game against Alaska," Belga said in Filipino. "Me personally, I really thought that if we could have corrected one mistake we could have won. I just wanted to bounce back personally. I take it as a challenge."

Aside from wanting to avenge a one-point loss at the hands of the Aces a week ago, Belga also revealed that he had another motive for his stellar performance.

"This morning I had a motivation - a hater that criticized me on social media that all I do is hurt others in the PBA," Belga said. "And I just want to prove it tonight so that was my challenge for me."

Throughout his 12-year PBA career, Belga has always been known as an enforcer in the shaded area. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds, he can dominate the paint just by his size and sheer will. He may not be as athletic or as skilled against some of his peers, but his fearlessness to compete cannot be questioned. And at this stage in his career, he has flourished in his role as a bonafide leader for Rain or Shine.

"Beau, being the leader of the team, probably this is the best game I've seen him play," beamed Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia. "He knows how to distribute the ball. He's been working really hard in practice and trying to show the ropes to the rookies."

Belga's drive to excel doesn't necessarily rely on outside factors, but when it does, it breeds a different level of competitiveness in him.

"The criticisms of fans it goes not only to Beau, it goes to everybody. Even I get a lot of critics. But you know, it's basketball, it's part of the game," said Garcia, mentioning that critics are usually right simply because they base their judgements on what already happened.

"You know, that's how strong Beau is. He carries himself well. He's stronger than me because sometimes when I get criticized, I can't sleep, but Beau eats," he jokingly said.

Games held in the PBA bubble obviously don't have fans, which also means there are no hecklers in the crowd. And for somebody like Beau who needs that extra fuel, getting added motivation will have to come from other places, including social media.

"Actually Beau loves the crowd so every game here it's sort of a disadvantage for him. Because he really likes people shouting at him. I should tell my players to shout at him just to motivate him," Garcia quipped.

Given that there isn't anybody in the arena except for a handful of players, staff, media members, and game officials, Belga's drive will primarily come from the opposing team right in front of him. That's what happened when he played phenomenally against Ginebra, a perennial powerhouse and the most popular team in the PBA.

In overtime against the Gin Kings, Belga battled exhaustion and still managed to knock down big shots. He refused to lose and pushed himself in the closing moments of the game.

"My heart was the only thing that kept me going - willingness to win in today's game. Good thing that we were able to get the win tonight," Belga said.

As the Elasto Painters aim for the elusive Philippine Cup title, they will ride on the broad shoulders of Belga.

"Where Beau goes we go because he's probably one of the best big men in the PBA," said Garcia.