NCC: The national team that won a PBA crown in 1985

The Northerners of the late great, national team coach Ron Jacobs, Northern Consolidated or Northern Cement, whatever you call it, won the PBA championship back in the 1985 Reinforced Conference. During that time, it was referred as guest amateur team to win, but they aren’t an amateur ballclub but the national team that won the Jones Cup tournament in the middle of the year, carrying the colors of San Miguel Beer, retaining the SEA Games basketball gold in December and winning back the ABC crown for the country in the first week of January 1986.

The six PBA ballclubs, Great Taste was expected to win the grandslam in 1985, having won four straight titles in a row and seem to be a perfect team to join the 1976 and 1983 Crispa Redmanizers among the elite club of grandslam champions. Four teams – Tanduay, Manila Beer, Ginebra and first-year ballclub Shell – have zero championship and were never locked to win a PBA title, at least that year, not just yet. Norman Black’s Magnolia, now renamed Magnolia Quench Plus, an overachieving squad that placed second to Great Taste in the first conference and were eliminated in the All-Filipino, will probably remain only second to the Coffee Makers no matter how many times they played in the season.

NCC was least likely to win too, as in three previous conferences they participated in the PBA, At best, Ron Jacobs’ boys should only be playing in the battle for third place. But in one of the league’s very first, they won the 1985 PBA Third Conference crown in unprecedented fashion, the first-ever 4-0 finals sweep in PBA history against the Manila Beer Brewmasters. It was not considered an upset but its certain we will never see again a group of local cagers straight out from college and reinforced by two Americans, winning big against pro teams with seasoned veterans. And if anyone watches the Northern-Manila Beer finale on youtube, one would notice how merciless the NCC players were against their opponents even when leading by 30 points, thats how American mentor Ron Jacobs molded the team into a discipline unit with a killer instinct. Aside from Manila Beer, Ron Jacobs’ boys were so hard on two other teams with top centers on a protected list – Great Taste and Tanduay. In five victories in six meetings with the Coffee Makers, NCC won by an average of 16 points. In three wins against Tanduay, NCC had an average winning margin of 19 points. So far, Northern’s worst nightmare happens to be crowd-favorite Ginebra San Miguel, which had the edge in their five matches, three wins to two, and there is this “pahiyang” against Magnolia, which emphatically beat Northern three times (Magnolia was 4-1 over NCC in the Open).

I had personal preferences on the NCC roster that won the PBA crown with naturalized players Jeff Moore and Dennis Still and the 10 local players who all made it to the pros, led by Samboy Lim, Allan Caidic, Yves Dignadice and Hector Calma, compared to the team which placed third in the Open Conference and that has a third naturalized player in Arthur ‘Chip’ Engelland (Still was actually the 3rd since Engelland played first in the PBA a year before), along with Leoncio Tan Jr. and Joseph Uichico in the lineup. UE’s Jerry Codinera and UST’s Pido Jarencio and Benjie Gutierrez were not yet part of the team that went to Taipei in the Jones Cup.

Northern started out the third conference with a narrow 106-107 loss to Ginebra on September 10, which had import Michael Hackett, a 1982 draft pick by the LA Lakers and the PBA’s soon-to-be first 100-point man, debuting with 49 points. They won their next two games against Manila Beer, 106-94, and Tanduay, 110-101, and then lost to Shell, who were 0-3 before their match, 104-106. Since this is the first full conference i’ve followed, I was hype to see how Northern would fare against Great Taste in their next outing on September 24, which will be shown on delayed telecast as it was scheduled in the first game. It turn out Great Taste played importless in the game as import Wally Rank have already left the team and the Coffee Makers easily lost, 120-133. Northern finish with three wins and three losses in the first round of eliminations and coming off a 90-98 defeat to Magnolia in Cabanatuan City on September 28.

NCC won four of their next five games in the second round with Magnolia again as their unlikely tormentor. One of their biggest victories was against Shell on October 1st where they held the Bugbusters to a record-low five points in the first quarter, a record that stood for more than a decade, they do allow the Bugbusters to score 53 points in the final quarter in a 147-111 victory. On the last three playing dates, both Ginebra and Magnolia were upset by lowly teams Tanduay and Shell, and Northern was expected to join Manila Beer in the outright semifinal slot but the Brewmasters defeated NCC, 126-121, on both teams last assignment on October 17, thus creating a triple tie for second place and pave the way for what could be the most discussed and favorite topics among old-school basketball fans, the birth of the never-say-die spirit of the league’s most popular team – Ginebra San Miguel.

As everyone knows, Ginebra beat Northern, 99-96, in a classic contest on October 22. Fast-forward two weeks later on November 5, NCC and Great Taste have joined Manila Beer and Ginebra at the start of the four-team, two-round semifinals. Northern was paired against their waterloo Ginebra San Miguel and lost, 97-101. Another defeat, this time against Great Taste, 97-102, as the Coffee Makers nailed their first victory over NCC in the conference, strengthen the notion that the nationals are only as good as making it to the final four.

In a repeat of their memorable playoff encounter two weeks before, NCC again controlled the match for three quarters but Ginebra got the breaks in the end. Here in this photo as written in the Atlas Sports weekly magazine issue dated November 15, Dennis Still was called for a pushing foul on Ginebra import Michael Hackett, he was infuriated by the call and was thrown out of the game, Still took a towel and threw it at the referee before leaving the hardcourt. Hackett had only 11 points before Still’s ejection in the third period and with no Dennis to handcuff him in the fourth quarter, Hackett went to town and finished with 37 points.

An article came out on a newspaper the next morning on coach Ron Jacobs’ thoughts on the PBA being unfair to them. NCC came back from those two losses with a 130-95 rout over Manila Beer, held import Francois Wise to a low output of 14 points. At the start of the second round, Northern finally escape with a 115-108 win over the hard-fighting Ginebras and they made it closer to the finals by beating their favorite whipping boy Great Taste (aside from Manila Beer), 125-102. The NCC core would suffer their final defeat as a team in the battle for the first finals seat versus Manila Beer.

The usually cool Samboy Lim blew his top and is about to confront Ramon Cruz if not for the cooler hands that prevailed over him. Manila Beer clinch the first finals berth with a 99-93 win, dropping an 18-2 bomb in the fourth quarter after trailing, 80-89. This was the last defeat of the NCC. The nationals would sweep their way to the PBA championship and were unbeaten in the SEA Games and ABC Championship along with the two farewell exhibition game against a PABL selection.  

In the playoff game against Great Taste on November 19, NCC ended the Coffee Makers’ grandslam bid as early as the first half when they led by 20 points, 70-50. Great Taste’ main scorer Ricardo Brown has yet to score in the game and he would remain scoreless in the second half. Except for the brief run by Great Taste late in the third quarter to cut the lead to 14, it was NCC all the way, coach Ron Jacobs pulled out his starters late in the game and the second stringers even added insult to injury with Alfie Almario first hitting a trey and then Elmer Reyes scoring back-to-back triples to the delight of the cheering NCC bench. The final tally was 123-107 for Northern.

Interesting to note that NCC had the same won-loss records after the eliminations, quarterfinals and semifinals of their title-conquest in the third conference and their third place finish earlier in the first conference of the 1985 PBA season. 7-5 after 12 games, 9-7 entering the semis (NCC beat Manila Beer in a playoff in the 1st Conference), and 3-3 after the semifinal round. The only difference is they were a game behind short of a finals berth in the first conference. In their championship run, they won 17 and lost 10, and only twice did Northern lose by double-digit margin, both against Magnolia, 96-106 in the second round of elimination on October 8, and 93-105 in the quarterfinal round on October 27.

The last hurrah of the great national team of coach Ron Jacobs, which first started in 1981 as the RP Training team, in a homecoming as the new ABC Champions in January 1986 with a jampacked crowd on hand at the Rizal Coliseum against a PABL selection reinforced by Norman Black and the late Darryl Smith. The Nationals won, 105-78. They play the selection again, this time without all American reinforcements and repeat with an 84-79 win.

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Posted by on February 24, 2018 in Philippine Basketball Association


PABL ’88: Philips’ 1st title and Magnolia’s only finals loss

In the middle of the year 1986, San Miguel Corporation decided to return to the basketball scene with the re-entry of both their amateur and pro ballclubs. A year later in late-1987, the SMC teams would start a tradition of winning run and by the end of the decade, they would become the most dominant squads with San Miguel Beer winning six of the last seven PBA conferences, including a grandslam, and their farm team Magnolia Ice Cream winning four of the last seven PABL conferences.

Actually, Magnolia won five since the return in 1986 and they won their first PABL title right away with some remmants of the old Lagerlite team such as Allan Caidic, Jerry Codinera, Pido Jarencio and Dindo Pumaren.

In this blog entry, I’ll talk about Magnolia’s only finals defeat to Philips Sardines which denied them of three straight crowns (Magnolia won titles in between) and Philips’ first and only PABL championship which took place in the third conference called Maharlika Cup that run from October to December 1988.

There are some significance on why Philips’ title conquest was that special and memorable. First, the league was coming off its worst crisis before the tournament started and which led to three teams disbanding. Second, it was the last time at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum that a foreign club, McDonald’s of Taiwan, would play at the old dome. Third, the most celebrated big man and amateur cager at that time, Benjie Paras of Philips, won his first commercial league title, two years after he led his alma mater, the University of the Philippines Maroons, to their first-ever UAAP crown.

A look at the rosters would suggest that winning Philips coach Joe Lipa had pulled another trick, reminiscent of his leading the underdog ESQ Merchants to an upset finals victory over the powerhouse Lagerlite Beermen of coach Derrick Pumaren three years ago. Incidentally, Pumaren calls the shots for Magnolia in the best-of-three championship series against Philips, thus the second meeting between two national team coaches and coach Joe Lipa made it 2-0 over his counterpart.

Magnolia is composed of three national mainstays; Nelson Asaytono, Dindo Pumaren and Paul Alvarez, three players named to the national team the following year; Gido Babilonia, Larry Villanil and Carlito Mejos, former nationals Jong Uichico and Leoncio Tan, both undrafted in the PBA rookie draft earlier in the year, and the likes of Romeo Lopez, Edgar Macaraya, Jerry Gonzales and Joey Santamaria.

Philips, aside from Paras, had Bobby Jose, Anthony Poblador, Silverio Palad, Aristotle Franco and Alfrancis Chua. Other players in the lineups were Benjie’s former national teammates and fellow Maroons, Joey Mendoza, Eric Altamirano and Joey Guanio, two more from UP, 5-9 Samuel Marata and 5-7 Alfie Manlulo, and two players named to the national team the following year; Gilbert Reyes and Edgar Postanes.

The Maharlika Cup finals, Game One was a 96-95 overtime win for Philips with Paras sinking two free throws with a fraction of a second remaining in the extension period to give the Sardines Makers a one-point win after being down by 11 points with a little over six minutes left in regulation. Game Two had Magnolia tying the series with a 90-84 victory.

Game Three on December 22, 1988 was supposed to be another merrier yuletide season and double-victory celebration for SMC ballclubs just like the previous year. But Philips refuse to fall under pressure when the Ice Cream Makers close to within three points, 57-60, with three minutes gone in the second half after being down by 12 at halftime. Gilbert “Jun” Reyes, yes, he rekindle his old rivalry with Dindo Pumaren here, two months after the Ateneo-La Salle showdown in the UAAP, drilled in a three-pointer that started a 26-10 blast for Philips as they coasted to a 103-86 victory.

Interesting to note that Benjie Paras, who was a two-time PABL MVP in 1988, never got to play against his former national teammates Asaytono, Alvarez and Pumaren in a PBA finals, just like when he went up against Alvin Patrimonio and Zaldy Realubit of Swift in the PABL International Invitational Cup finals earlier in May where Philips almost won the title in regulation, a basketball fans dream match up of Paras being pitted against Patrimonio in a pro league finale never came to fruition.

Magnolia Ice Cream did gain a measure of finals revenge over the Philips Sardines ballclub at the turn of the decade in 1990 but with different players.

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Posted by on January 24, 2018 in Philippine Basketball League


1986 PABL Invitationals: rosters of the 4 semifinalist

The 1986 Philippine Amateur Basketball League (PABL) Invitational tournament which was the league’s first conference of the season, started on May 3, 1986. After the one-round eliminations among 8 teams, the Visayan team Lhuillier Jewelers swept its seven game assignments for a 7-0 won-loss card. RFM-Swift and ESQ Marketing were tied at second place with 4-3 but the Foodmakers made the next round with the win-over-the-other ruling.

Last year’s challenge the champions runner-up Mama’s Love placed last with only one win and six losses while four other teams; La Salle, Hope, Army Jungle Fighters and Converse/Milkland carry a 3-4 won-loss slate. A one-round quarterfinals utilized a carryover system where their matches against the two outright semifinalist; Lhuillier and RFM, and the two eliminated teams; Converse and Mama’s Love, are not counted. With this, La Salle was 3-0, ESQ was 2-1, Hope at 1-2 and Army at 0-3.

Hope swept its three assignments and close out with a 4-2 card, tied with ESQ and La Salle. Hope made it to the semis via quotient while ESQ completed the semifinals cast with a victory over the Green Archers in a playoff.

Now here are the lineups of the four semifinalist playing in the double round semis:

Lhuillier Jewelers (coach by Alfredo Enriquez) – Seven national players led by Samboy Lim, Jojo Lastimosa and Harmon Codinera, who were current members of the national team bound for the Asian Games later that year. Past national players Peter Aguilar, Alfonso Solis, Leoncio Tan and Jesus Ramirez. Two UV standouts; Peter Jao and Christopher Amomonpon, and two Manilenos; Raymond Celis and Francisco Navarro.

ESQ Marketing (coach by Nat Canson) – The defending Invitational champions had won the Asian Intercity championship, donning the Pasig Giants jersey, while the tournament was ongoing. The merchants had national player Allan Caidic, along with Edgar Macaraya to contend with in the wings. The backcourt tandem of Jerome Cueto and Gerardo Ramos. Completing the roster are slotman Hernani Demigillo, Jojo Villapando, Alvin Teng, Melchor Frogoso, Rey Rubi, Elisio Agsunod, Tony dela Cerna, Joselito Martin, Gerald Esplana and Joel Santos.

Hope Cigarettes (first coach by Arturo Valenzona, then to assistant Egay Gomez) – The Cigarette Makers had the tallest lineup in 6’6″ national player Jack Tanuan and 6’7″ Adriano Polistico. It has seven members of the National Open champion Masagana 99 quintet. These are Leo Isaac, Jeffrey Graves, Pol Manimbo, George Ella, Popoy Manaog, Romeo Lopez and Fernando Garcia. Then there is Renato Agustin and another national player Glenn Capacio. Others in the lineup are Joel Valle, Richard Bognot and Josel Angeles.

RFM-Swift (coach by Virgil Villavicencio) – The Foodmakers, the surprise team in the tournament when they made the semis outright, only had national player Elmer Reyes as its big star. The rest of the Foodmakers are Robert Magalong, Mukesh Advani, Junel Baculi, Alex Regis, Dondi Roque, Guillermo Valerio, Alex Doromal, Cadel Mosqueda, Demetrio Antonio, Boy Viray, Edgar Amisola, Leo Paguntalan, Anthony Poblador and Joseph Pelaez.

The 1986 PABL First Conference was arguably the most exciting and well-attended tournament in the history of the league as seen in the images above. The members of the national team which won the ABC championship earlier in the year, played for different PABL ballclubs. The ‘Skywalker’ Samboy Lim, saw action in his only amateur commercial league tournament (he later resurface playing for Welcoat in the late 1990s at age 36).


The best of the tournament

The glamor team from Cebu, the Lhuillier Jewelers, which beat fellow newcomer Hope for the title and a cinderella finish, was one of the favorite topics among old-school basketball fans. Hope coach Arturo Valenzona temporarily gave up his coaching position to his assistant, due to pressures by Tanduay in the PBA. He return to the Hope bench after the PBA finals was over.

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Posted by on October 4, 2017 in Philippine Basketball League


PBA best rivalries’ top 10 matches: Tanduay vs Ginebra (3rd of 3 parts)

The last four on my list are all Ginebra victories. As I concluded my top 10, both teams had five wins each. I’ve chosen five in the eliminations, three from the title series and two from the semifinals.

7.) May 10, 1987 (Ginebra 127 Tanduay 124) – A month after their first meeting won by Tanduay in two overtimes. Their second round confrontation in the 1987 Open Conference was the only one in my list that was played in the first game of a double-header. It was a hot, Sunday afternoon and the ULTRA venue was jampacked as early as 5pm. The memorable highlight of this game was the shouting match or the war of words between Ginebra playing coach Sonny Jaworski and Tanduay coach Arturo Valenzona. The game itself had Tanduay led by 15 points at halftime, 67-52, but Ginebra came roaring back in the third quarter and tied the count at 97-all, going into the last period. With the score at 102-all, seven more deadlocks and three lead changes marked the fourth quarter. Dondon Ampalayo’s basket inside the keyhole with 31 seconds left shattered the game’s last deadlock and give Ginebra a 126-124 lead. The Rhum Makers bungled two opportunities to equalized on the return play as both Willie Generalao and Freddie Hubalde missed their attempts from short range. Hackett pulled down the defensive rebound and in a process, drew Thirdkill’s sixth and last foul with only a few seconds left in the game.


In his weekly column on Sports Flash, the Big J in the last part of the write-up, talks on his shouting match with Tanduay coach Turo Valenzona.

8.) August 26, 1986 (Ginebra 90 Tanduay 86, Game one of AFC finals) – The two semifinal matches of Ginebra and Tanduay in the 1986 All-Filipino conference resulted to a four-point victory each for both teams. Ginebra beat Tanduay, 94-90 on August 12, where the Rhum Makers nearly stage a walkout in the final minute when the coaching staff didn’t like the referees’ call. Tanduay got back at Ginebra with a 96-92 win a week later on August 19, it was the Gins’ first attempt to secure a finals seat but was stop by the Rhum Makers in a whirlwind finish. The following week on August 26th, the two teams will now battle for Game one of the championship series which resulted to another four-point winning margin. The hype on the “grudge” between the Big J and El Presidente was a disappointment in the first game as Fernandez sat out for most of the game because of fouls. Fernandez scored the final point for Tanduay on split free throws which tied the count for the last time at 86-all before Terry Saldana and Francis Arnaiz provided the winning baskets for Ginebra.

9.) November 2, 1986 (Ginebra 126 Tanduay 118) – As of this writing, there are no source yet that I could find, but based on my recollections on the All souls day match, it was an uphill climb for Ginebra on their way to victory, their first against Tanduay since losing to the Rhum Makers in the All-Filipino championship. The only certain here is that it’s a Billy Ray Bates-Rob Williams battle so its expected to be unpredictable and explosive. I do read that Rob Williams had to leave the game late in the fourth quarter because of the rough plays and hard fouls on him by the opposing team.

10.) August 6, 1987 (Ginebra 106 Tanduay 103) – Interestingly, the last on my top 10 list as I posted this happened 30 years ago on August 6th, and it was also the last schedule of eliminations in the 1987 All-Filipino conference and it drew lesser attendance but still a fairly-sized crowd. For the two protagonist of the All-Filipino finals last year, one of them has to be eliminated and Ginebra, one game better than Tanduay with a 3-4 won-loss slate compared to the Rhum Makers’ 2-5, definitely had a better shot than the defending champions, who needed to win to force a playoff. An added spark for Ginebra was the return of playing coach Jaworski from the United States, his first appearance in the conference and the first time he will sit on the bench side by side with Ginebra’s new recruit Rudy Distrito, who has been playing well for the team on Big J’s absence. The game was slightly delayed on TV and the Ginebras controlled the tempo for most of the first three quarters and Tanduay playing catch-up. The most memorable highlights of this game came in the last 2:33 when Tanduay threatened to within two, 98-100. The Rhum Makers blew a chance to tie the game and when Joey Loyzaga converted on a three-point play to make it 103-98 for Ginebra. Ramon Fernandez went two-for-two from the free throw line to cut the lead to three. Tanduay had a chance again to inch closer but Freddie Hubalde missed on an easy layup. Joey Loyzaga split his free throw for a 104-100 lead with only 25 seconds left in the game clock. The Rhum Makers were now hoping for a miracle and Willie Generalao answered when he converted a three-point shot from 30 feet out, cutting the deficit to just one, 104-103, with time down to 18 seconds. Tanduay gave a quick foul and Chito Loyzaga sank both of his free throws. Rudy Distrito blocked a desperation three-point shot by Itoy Esguerra on the final play and it was over for the Rhum Makers. This game turn out to be the last time coach Turo Valenzona had called the shots for Tanduay as he was unceremoniously sacked by the management.


This was taken from Part of the game column and written by Tessa Jazmines on Sports Weekly Magazine dated September 12-19, 1986, after the four-game title series, describes how never in a long time there have been such classic clash as this one since the Crispa-Toyota days.

Sources: Credits to PBA archives, Champ Magazine September 9, 1986 issue, Champ Magazine May 26, 1987 issue, Sports Weekly Magazine August 14, 1987 issue, Sports Flash May 1987 issue.


PBA’s best rivalries’ top 10 matches: Tanduay vs Ginebra (2nd of 3 parts)

The second of three parts of the 1980s rivalry were three more Tanduay victories over Ginebra San Miguel.

4.) April 12, 1987 (Tanduay 129 Ginebra 124, Double-overtime) – The summer of ’87, the first meeting of Tanduay and Ginebra in the 1987 season needed two overtimes to decide the outcome. David Thirdkill scored 61 points and got the better of his match up with Michael Hackett, who finished with 35 points. This was one of the hard-fought matches in their rivalry and a see-saw battle all throughout with so many deadlocks and lead changes. Halftime score ended at 53-all, the end of the third quarter had Ginebra up by a point, 78-77. David Thirdkill moved Tanduay on top with a jumper from the left side with six seconds left in regulation to give the Rhum Makers a 107-105 lead. On the Ginebra possession, Sonny Jaworski almost took five seconds inbounding, spotted Chito Loyzaga just in time and Chito drove down and drew the defense to him and issued a drop pass to a moving Dondon Ampalayo who placed the game into overtime with a banked shot at close range, 107-all. The score at the end of the first extension period was 115-all. The final play had Tanduay’s Willie Generalao inbounding the ball with one second left, the buzzer sounded when the ball barely landed in the receiver’s hands, causing the Tanduay bench to go up on its feet in protest for what appeared to be a premature sounding of the horn. As shown below, the second overtime had Ginebra last tasted the lead at 124-122 when a 7-0 finishing run by Tanduay gave them the victory after 58 minutes of play.


5.) August 28, 1986 (Tanduay 118 Ginebra 115, Overtime, Game two of AFC finals) – To borrow quotes from what the writer in my source said about the second game of the 1986 All-Filipino Conference finals – Cardiac, Nerve-wracking, Down-the-wire, Emotion-filled and Highly-dramatic. The game had several deadlocks in the fourth period. Hubalde and Arnaiz exchange baskets for another deadlock at 106-all, going into the final 15 seconds of regulation play. On Tanduay’s crucial inbound, Ramon Fernandez almost lost the ball to Chito Loyzaga twice in the isolation play, Hubalde got the pass, he fumbled, recovered and threw an off-balance shot that rimmed out as time expired.


The third period was full of controversy as written on the left portion of the article. At the right side of this story, Sonny Jaworski was the first casualty of the evening when he committed his sixth and last foul against Hubalde. Tanduay’s JB Yango was the man of the hour for the Rhum Makers as he scored 40 points to lift his team to a victory. 

Tanduay nailed down its first win in the All-Filipino finals over the never-say-die Ginebras after 53 minutes of bruising hardcourt action.

6.) May 20, 1986 (Tanduay 122 Ginebra 119) – This shouldn’t be on the list, considering that it happened in the first conference of ‘86, and as I stated in the first part, their rivalry started in the All-Filipino finals series, but I can’t ignore that this game is a thrilling finish and the first real sign that a rivalry between these two teams is gonna start soon. Ginebra opened their campaign in the 1986 season with four straight losses but has since won 8 of their last 9 outings and their games in the semifinals were so exciting with underrated imports Terry Duerod and Keith Gray. Both Tanduay and Ginebra won their three semis assignments going into their much-awaited encounter on the last playing date of the first round of the semifinals. The Rhum Makers played without Andre McKoy for most part of the contest as he was ejected after two successive technical fouls in the second quarter. Despite that, the Rhum Makers led 69-64 at the half. In the third quarter, Ginebra turn it around and take the upperhand, 97-92, on a 13-3 blast late in the period. Since the contents of the fourth quarter in my references is missing, my memory in the final minute was Tanduay went up by four, 120-116, on a three point play. After a Ginebra timeout, Terry Duerod hit a three-pointer with just a second lapse on the time clock, the score now reads 120-119 for Tanduay. The Rhum Makers lost possession on the next play and Ginebra has a chance to win the game, I think it was rookie Dondon Ampalayo? who muffed a hurried shot and the rebound struggle and battle for the loose ball as the buzzer sounded. There was confusion afterwards and who committed the foul, if my memory is right, it was Jaworski who was the one called for the foul, resulting to two free throws for Tanduay and the final count.

Sources: Credits to PBA archives, Champ magazine May 30 and September 9, 1986 issues, Sports Flash May 22-28, 1986 issue, Champ April 28, 1987 issue.


PBA’s best rivalries’ top 10 matches: Tanduay vs Ginebra (1st of 3 parts)

In the last five months of the year 1986, a new PBA rivalry was born between crowd-favorite Ginebra San Miguel, led by former Toyota stars Sonny Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz, and the Tanduay Rhum Makers, with the old YCO fans remaining loyal to the team which now has another Toyota great Ramon Fernandez at center and main man of the ballclub. Their rivalry began during the 1986 All-Filipino Conference finals won by Tanduay in four games. Since then, Ginebra has won 10 of their next 13 meetings up until the end of the 1987 PBA season.

The Tanduay victories in their two-season rivalry were actually more exciting games than Ginebra’s wins as I choose five for the Rhum Makers in the first six on my list. Here is the top three in the first part of my blog entry.

1.) September 2, 1986 (Tanduay 93 Ginebra 92, Game four of the AFC finals) – The title-clinching victory by Tanduay is what most old-school PBA fans remembers most, particularly the last 18 seconds of the game when Ginebra was up by a point, 92-91, following a 7-0 run on huge plays by Jaworski. The Big J had a near steal on Willie Generalao’s throw-in on Freddie Hubalde. The former Redmanizer kept possession of the ball, raced back to Tanduay’s side of the court and let go with a desperation lay-up, he drew a foul from Jaworski and Freddie made both free throws. In the last six seconds, the Big J muffed his chance to play hero. The space will not be enough to talk about the drama, the tension and the controversy in the post-game after the title was won. The quotes coming from the Ginebra playing coach like “It’s unfair”, “No foul, tape shows” referring to that controversial last foul with six seconds to go. Freddie Hubalde himself says it was a “foot foul” that Jaworski committed on him in those last six seconds.

2.) October 12, 1986 (Tanduay 114 Ginebra 109) – I first mentioned this game on my post about Billy Ray Bates, their first meeting in the 1986 Third Conference. What is also significant about this match is that this was one of the last games of PBA pioneer Francis Arnaiz in the league. He started out in this game along with Dante Gonzalgo at the guard position. In the first quarter alone, Gonzalgo made a record of sorts by picking up five fouls from the very first period! Ginebra led 29-27 after 12 minutes, they got their biggest lead at 47-31 in the second quarter before settling to a 54-48 halftime edge. Tanduay outscored Ginebra, 38-29, in the third quarter to take the upperhand, 86-83, after three quarters of play. Ginebra had three miscues and lost possession in the crucial stages of the ballgame, Rob Williams intercepted a cross-court pass by Billy Ray Bates and drew a foul from Michael Hackett. Williams’ two free throws gave the Rhum Makers a 112-109 margin with 26 seconds left in the game. And then playing coach Sonny Jaworski issued a bad pass which Andy Thompson easily grabbed as Tanduay went on to deal the Gins their first loss in five games in the Open Conference.

3.) May 31, 1987 (Ginebra 110 Tanduay 102) – Both teams won their first assignments at the start of the semifinals of the 1987 Open Conference. Ginebra was coming off a seven-game winning streak before their match and this was so highly anticipated with a big crowd on hand at the ULTRA. I’ll leave it to this piece below to describe how great this game was.


Ginebra started hot early on but it was Tanduay that was controlling the game after three quarters, leading 84-77. Sonny Jaworski, who has yet to score in the ballgame, converted three triples in the fourth quarter, his two three-point shots ignited a 10-0 run by Ginebra that gave them a 93-88 edge. The Rhum Makers grab the lead for the last time at 100-99 when the Big J hit his third triple of the night. As written in this piece, Tanduay import David Thirdkill committed a booboo when Ginebra was up by two points, 104-102, his behind the back pass was easily pick up by Michael Hackett and with the outcome beyond doubt, Tanduay’s Itoy Esguerra gave a hard foul on Chito Loyzaga.

Sources: Credits to PBA archives, Sports Weekly Magazine dated September 12, 1986, Champ Magazine October 21, 1986 issue, Champ Magazine June 9, 1987 issue.


1981 PBA Open: The last championship match of Toyota and Crispa

It’s the month of July and 36 years ago in the 1981 PBA First Conference, basketball fans witness arch rivals Crispa and Toyota played in what turn out to be their last championship match. While the scores in the five-game series were already given. There have been very few stories and highlights of the whole game in the title series.

Now let’s talk about the last two games of the finals series and how close it was for Toyota to end up in another disappointing finish and nearly a runner-up  for the fourth straight time. Going into their finals clash, Crispa has the edge in their four meetings in the Open Conference, 3 to 1. The first two games of the championship series were split up with Toyota taking Game One, 123-116, and Crispa winning Game Two, 126-124. The second game had Toyota’s spiritual leader Sonny Jaworski suffering a sprain ankle. Game three was more frustrating for the Super Diesels playing without the Big J because of an injury, they didn’t have a court general to call the shots but still led by 12 points going into the last six minutes of the ballgame, but the tide suddenly turn in favor of Crispa, anchored by the superb performance of Abet Guidaben and with Ramon Fernandez fouling out anew which made it worse for Toyota, the Redmanizers won the third game, 126-116, and set the stage for three-in-a-row.

Game four on July 23, Thursday, Toyota team manager Ricky Silverio remained confident that there would still be a tomorrow for Toyota. As written in the July 31-August 7, 1981 Sports Weekly Magazine issue, the first quarter saw the Super Diesels trailed by six points, 20-26. They began hitting their stride in the second quarter to moved up by four points, 56-52, at the halftime break.  Then came the third period, a 14-0 Crispa run early in the quarter with Atoy Co waxing hot and the Super Diesels found themselves trailing by 10, that’s how scary it was for Toyota and they need a comeback in a hurry to avert the threat of a Crispa breakaway. Around the third period, Toyota coach Ed Ocampo finally fielded in Sonny Jaworski, who had wanted to play in the third game but coach Ed says no and he cannot sacrifice a career for one game. Andy Fields team up with Danny Florencio on a 12-6 assault as Toyota levelled the count at 70-all. Then in the last two minutes of the third quarter, Florencio joined hands with Toyota’s “secret weapon” Nick Bulaong to insure a five-point Toyota lead, 85-80, going into the homestretch.

Toyota raced to a 12-point margin in the fourth period capped by a three-point shot by Jaworski. Although the Redmanizers managed to trim down the lead to only four, 95-99. Ramon Fernandez and import Andy Fields presided over a closing 13-1 burst in the last 2:52 that sent the Super Diesels beyond the reach of the scrambling Redmanizers. The crucial 116-98 win for Toyota set the stage for the winner-take-all Game Five.

Saturday evening, July 25. The biggest crowd ever to witness a ballgame at the Araneta Coliseum with more than 25,000 fans packed to the rafters with every inch of space taken and over a million more television viewers in their respective homes, it was a classic showdown and a fitting climax to the 1981 PBA Open Conference. The game started at 7:30pm and the Super Diesels immediately set the tone by racing to an early 20-13 lead. Then Snake Jones came in for James Hardy who had a bad fall. Atoy Co and Bernie Fabiosa also checked in to put Crispa to within one, 27-28, after the first period. Toyota’s sustained offensive carried it to an 11-point margin twice, the last at 54-43 with three minutes and 12 seconds to go in the second quarter. The half ended at 59-55 in Toyota’s favor.

The Super Diesels went on to dominate the early part of the third period until Crispa pumped in six straight points through Jones, Fabiosa and Cezar, to tie the count at 77 and 79-all. Then Jaworski spurted and completed a Florencio steal to give Toyota an 81-79 edge at the end of the third quarter. The countdown to victory in the last 4:52 as shown below.


Toyota freezes the ball in the final 20 seconds as they celebrate their 7th championship and the second in the Open Conference. This mark the 4th time in 10 finals showdowns since 1975 that Toyota had beaten Crispa.


The Trivia on Big J in the Sports Flash issue that came out around 1995.

Notes: Some contents here, I rewrite it from the said SWM issue, credits to PBA archives’ facebook album. More championship photos on Toyota basketball team fb group.