FOR the Philippine men’s basketball team, it marked the end of years of frustrations losing to a despised, longtime Asian rival.
And so did for Ranidel De Ocampo.
It didn’t come as surprise that the now-retired forward was reduced to tears when Gilas Pilipinas finally put an end to the Korean curse via hard-earned 86-79 win exactly seven years ago before a highly emotional crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena during the semifinals of the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championship.
Not only did the victory send the host country to a final showdown with Hamed Haddadi and Iran for the title, it also allowed the Philippines to punch a ticket to the FIBA World Cup after a 36-year absence.
For De Ocampo, it was a both historic moment for Philippine basketball history and sweet personal redemption.
When everything was over, the 6-foot-6 De Ocampo together with bosom buddy Mark Pingris cried unabashedly during the media conference that proceeded the dramatic victory.
“Iniyakan ko talaga yun, Sobrang memorable sa akin yun,” recalled De Ocampo of that moment when he and Pingris were wiping away tears in front of hordes of mediamen both local and foreign following the breathtaking win, which the host pulled off without an injured Marcus Douthit.
Both RDO and Pingris were there more than a decade ago that the victory was both a source of national and personal pride, their frustration over losses to Korea going back to their days with the Philippine youth team.
“Kami ni Ping umiyak kami kasi simula RP Youth magkasama na kami niyan,” De Ocampo disclosed.
During their time together with the youth team in 2000, De Ocampo and Pingris suffered an 86-100 defeat against South Korea in the FIBA-Asia Under-20 Championship in Doha, Qatar. One of their teammates with the national squad incidentally, was Ervin Sotto, father of Filipino NBA prospect Kai Sotto.
The Philippines eventually ended in seventh place with a 2-4 record.
It was such a long time coming for Pingris and most especially De Ocampo that both of them cried unabashedly when the sweet reality of their victory finally hit them.
“Kaya nung nag men’s team (kami) at nanalo tayo, talagang ramdam namin sa puso namin kung gaano namin kamahal yung bandila ng Pilipinas,” said RDO.
No wonder with the many highlight acts that marked his playing career, that one memorable victory over South Korea stood out for De Ocampo.
“Yun ang No. 1 ko siyempre,” he said of the unforgettable win against the Sokors that left not a few in tears when the final buzzer sounded on that momentous night of August 10, 2013.
De Ocampo’s back-breaking three-pointer inside the 1:33 mark sent the jampacked crowd at the MoA Arena in a frenzy as Gilas Pilipinas took the lead for good, 81-78, on its way to rousing win against its longtime Asian nemesis and a long-cherished berth in the FIBA World Cup.
“Nakapasok tayo sa World Cup nun after almost 40 years,” said De Ocampo, 38, and now a deputy with the TnT Katropa.
Following the historic win, Gilas Pilipinas was back to its losing ways against South Korea in major international competitions, the last of which came in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, 91-82. But De Ocampo isn’t losing hope with the Filipinos, the same way he never wavered two decades ago.
“Sa mga susunod pang Gilas, sana manalo (pa rin) tayo,” he said.
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