WUHAN (FIBA Asia Championship) – Ranidel De Ocampo has produced the game of his life at the right time, helping guide the Philippines past a determined Chinese Taipei and into the FIBA Asia Championship Semi-Finals for the first time since 1987, and a step closer to their first Olympics since 1972.
The 29-year-old power forward had 12 points, three rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in less than 10 minutes as the Philippines turned a nine-point deficit into a 54-48 lead. De Ocampo would finish with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists in what he rated as perhaps his best ever performance for his country.
“If it’s not the best it’s definitely one of the best,” said De Ocampo, who is playing at his first continental championship after debuting with the national team in 2001.
“I am just so happy to be playing at a FIBA Asia Championship, and I am so happy for my country.”
De Ocampo had been a solid contributor for his country over the first six games of the tournament, averaging 6.5 points and 4 rebounds per game in nearly 17 minutes per contest.
But with Taipei looking on the brink of a big upset in the second quarter of their Quarter-Final, De Ocampo decided it was his turn to step up.
He said it was a scenario he and the team were well prepared for.
“We talked before the game, no matter what happens – we go down by six or we go down by eight – we have to stay focussed and keep our composure,” he explained.
He and his teammates did exactly that, overwhelming Chinese Taipei 95-78 to book a date with Jordan in the Semi-Finals.
As always, Marcus Douthit led the way for the Philippines with 37 points and 10 rebounds, while Marcio Lassiter accumulated 13 points and eight boards. Tseng Wen-Ting (20 points), Chen Hsin-An (14 points) and Lin Chih-Chieh (10 points, seven rebounds, five assists) never stopped trying for Chinese Taipei, who will now face Iran in a classification game.
The first quarter was a see-sawing affair played at breakneck speed, with Taipei taking a 23-19 first quarter lead despite 10 points from Douthit. Chen had eight points of his own in the first term, and big man Tseng joined the party, racing to nine points and giving Taipei their 37-29 lead.
De Ocampo lifted and Joseph Casio proved the spark the Philippines needed, scoring two quick baskets to launch a 16-5 run to finish the half and give his team a three-point lead.
When De Ocampo scored seven quick points to start the third quarter the game quickly got out of Chinese Taipei’s reach. The margin was 13 at three quarter time before the Philippines comfortably saw off every Taipei challenge in the final quarter.
De Ocampo said another thing driving the team on is all the support they are receiving from back home.
“I want to thank all the Filipino supporters and basketball fans,” he said, before sending a message back to the Philippines.
“Nothing is impossible. We just have to keep praying and hoping that we make it to the finals.”
And what about the Olympics, dare he think of London just yet?
“That would be great. Everybody in the world knows about Filipino boxers, then they would find out about Philippines basketball too!” he said proudly.
“You never know. Even though we are an undersized team we have the heart.”