CHANGSHA, China – Despite the injury suffered by Andray Blatche, veteran Ranidel De Ocampo said the close win eked out by Gilas over Japan on Sunday serves as a good morale booster heading to a potentially explosive showdown against Iran in the Fiba Asia Championship here.
“We move on. It’s nice to have good momentum and good game before we play Iran,” said De Ocampo moments after the Filipinos’ 73-66 win over the Japanese at the Changsha Social Work Colleges here.
Blatche had to sit out most of the second quarter after rolling his ankle when he drove hard to the basket at the 7:21 mark of the period.
Without the naturalized big man, Gilas fell behind, 19-29, but rallied behind De Ocampo, Jason Castro, and Terrence Romeo.
By the time the first half was over, the Philippines had regained the lead, 35-33.
The best the Japanese could do after that was to tie the game at 64 on a three-pointer by Ryoma Hashimoto in the final 2:24, before De Ocampo nailed a corner trey to put Gilas ahead for good, 67-64.
De Ocampo, who finished with 13 points and five rebounds, though, deflected the credit to his teammates for sticking together especially during the time when Blatche had to leave the game due to his injury.
“Everybody stepped up and we did a good job of playing defense because we have been studying the Japanese team since yesterday (Saturday),” said the veteran power forward, who joined coach Tab Baldwin at the post-game press conference.
De Ocampo also welcomed the win – close as it may – as a nice start to Gilas campaign’ in the second round of the preliminary.
“It feels good and proud to be able to win and make a good start in the second round (of the Fiba Asia),' he said. “It may not be big, but it’s still a win. We will take it."