Emotional night for the men of Gilas
One of the most emotional scenes during the night Gilas Pilipinas confirmed its place in the FIBA World Cup for the first time in almost four decades didn’t happen on the court.
Inside the press room of the Mall of Asia Arena saw Ranidel de Ocampo and Marc Pingris cry like grown men after playing a pivotal role in ending the Philippines' long basketball nightmare against South Korea with an 86-79 win in the semifinals of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship.
“Umiyak po ako nung nag-champion ako sa Talk ‘N Text, pero hindi ganito ka-grabe,” De Ocampo said in front of dozens of reporters who trying to beat their respective deadlines.
“Iyakin talaga yan e,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes, prompting laughter inside the very cold room that may rival any arctic nation there is.
Gilas reaped the rewards of months of preparation that included training sessions and tune-up games in Lithuania and New Zealand.
For Pingris, the sacrifices were well worth it.
“Mahirap po mawalay sa family po namin e, lalong-lalo na sa at asawa at mga anak,” said Pingris, who quickly made some clarifications to the working press.
“Sa asawa lang ha, baka sa mga asawa. Hindi po ah, asawa lang,” added the son-in-law of comedian Vic Sotto, triggering more laughs. “Baka ilagay niyo sa mga asawa.”
Pingris later got on the emotional side as he reflected on ending the “Curse of South Korea.”
The two frontcourt players had to do it the hard way after naturalized player Marcus Douthit went down with an ankle injury midway in the second quarter.
While most remember Jayson Castro’s offensive exploits and Jimmy Alapag’s dagger three in the final minute, Pingris and De Ocampo were among the backbones in order to beat the South Koreans.
Pingris put up 16 points and 10 rebounds while De Ocampo added 11 points and six boards. The two were able to help Gilas beat South Korea on the boards 38-27.
Also forgotten were some of their key baskets entering the homestretch.
De Ocampo’s running bankshot off Seung-Jun Lee with 2:20 to go put Gilas ahead for good at 78-77. But the versatile forward was not yet done.
Several possessions later, Alapag inbounded at the baseline and found De Ocampo open for a right elbow three with 1:31 remaining, extending the Philippine lead to 81-77.
After Alapag’s three that made it 84-79 and Gabe Norwood blocking Kim Ming Goo’s three on the next possession, Pingris retrieved Castro’s blocked attempt and immediately converted a follow-up with 20.7 ticks to go, sealing the final score and Gilas’ trip to Spain for the World Cup.
“Sakripisyo lang talaga, para sa bayan kasi masarap pong maglaro,” Pingris said. “Sa PBA, sumesweldo po kami, pero dito nagpapakamatay po kami.”
It was a victory like no other for De Ocampo and Pingris, who will forever be linked to that one memorable August night in Pasay City.