Like a true warrior, Marc Pingris refuses to bail on Gilas Pilipinas
MANILA, Philippines — As players from both teams warmed up on the court during the halftime break, Marc Pingris took a spot at the edge of the Philippines bench, sat down, clasped his hands, dipped his head to his knees and prayed.
Marcus Douthit left the game due to an injury earlier. And Pingris had a sinking feeling he wasn’t going to return. Worse, he sprained his right ankle in the first half after stepping on Korean veteran Kim Joo-sung’s foot and the pain was starting to claw its way to his hamstring.
“Nagdasal ako [I prayed],” said Pingris. “Sabi ko, tulungan Nya lang ako wag maramdaman yung sakit [I just asked him to help me not feel the pain].”
Marc Pingris, true to his warrior self, did not want to bail on Gilas Pilipinas. Not with Douthit already out. Not with the Philippines on the verge of booking a ticket to the Fiba World Cup in Spain. Not with adoring and supportive fans pushed to within another man down of yet another Korean-constructed heartache.
“Magpapakamatay na kami kung kailangan para sa bayan [we were ready to give up our lives for the country],” he said.
Standing on one good leg, Pingris still went out and provided the hustle plays, defending against Korea’s tall frontline and even producing crucial points to help slow a furious rally by the visitors in the stretch as Gilas Pilipinas booked a World Cup slot by ousting nemesis Korea, 86-79, in the semifinals of the Fiba Asia Championship.
While several heroes could compete for being the heart and soul of Gilas Pilipinas’ victory over Korea at Mall of Asia Arena Saturday night, Pingris’ 16 points and 10 rebounds were the blood and guts of that monumental triumph.
“Iniisip ko, gusto ko rin maglaro sa Spain [I also want to play in Spain],” said the San Mig Coffee workhorse, smiling sheepishly.
“Tonight, Marc Pingris showed why he is on this team,” said national coach Chot Reyes. “In the end, when we needed it, he was there.”
Pingris, Ranidel de Ocampo and Japeth Aguilar all shouldered the load Douthit yielded when he reinjured his calf muscle.
“The three of us really needed to step up when Marcus went down,” said Aguilar. “Ping (Pingris) stepped up big time in this game and Ranidel hit some big shots.”
There were several times when Pingris would grab his hamstring in pain in the second half. But all he needed to do was to listen to the crowd and the hurt would go away.
“Wala lahat ng sakit [The pain would disappear].” said Pingris. “
Para silang gamot. May sakit man o pagod, ang sarap ng feeling na sumisigaw sila ng ‘puso’ at ‘laban’ [The crowd was like medicine. You may be tired or hurting but it feels good once they start shouting ‘heart’ and ‘fight’].”
“Kanina, pagod na ako at may nararamdaman akong sakit, Pero pag naririnig ko sila, iniisip ko na kakayod ako para sa kanila [I felt tired and I felt pain. But every time I hear the crowd, I always tell myself I’d work hard for them].”
And when the buzzer sounded, as Pingris knelt on the court and bowed, the crowd cheered for him one more time.