For four years, Isaac Go and Justine Baltazar have been on opposite ends of the greatest rivalry in Philippine sports — Ateneo versus La Salle.
Both standing at 6-foot-8, and playing behind dominant forces in Angelo Kouame and Ben Mbala respectively, Go and Baltazar had the task of guarding each other.
And because of the rivalry, the two were unable to be friends off the court.
But that all changed with Gilas Pilipinas. The two are both part of the national team’s pool for the second window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
Once the Filipino-Chinese Go got to know Pampanga-native Baltazar, they just clicked.
“He’s just an amazing player and person. This is really the first chance I’ve had the chance to talk to him and get to know him better. He’s a fun guy to be around off the court and he’s a competitor on the court,” shared Go.
“He seems quiet at first, but when he warms up, medyo makulit. And it’s just fun to be around him.”
Go and Baltazar shared the duty of anchoring Gilas against Thailand, Friday evening. And it was pure magic.
In just 12 minutes of game time, Go had six points and four rebounds while going a plus-15. Baltazar, on the other hand, was a game-high plus-32 in his first-ever national team stint while tallying 12 points, six rebounds, a steal, and a block a well.
And they hope lightning strikes twice on Monday when they face Thailand once more.
For Go, he and Baltazar share one thing — the drive to represent the country well.
“Being able to step on the floor once again is one of the best feelings. I think there is more pressure from representing the country than playing in an Ateneo-La Salle game,” shared Go.
“Every time you put the Gilas jersey on, you are not only representing yourself, your family, and your team, but the millions of Filipinos all over the world.”