The Philippine Amateur Basketball League (PABL) Challenge the Champions tournament started on October 5, 1985. There were 16 teams, including the top two collegiate squads from the UAAP and NCAA, divided into two groups that will play a round-robin elimination in each group with the final eight teams playing in a one-round semifinals to determine the two finalist.
The Champion of the tournament were Army Jungle Fighters, coach by Charlie Badion, who have just replaced their previous coach, Col.Jake Malajacan, at the start of the second and final conference of the 1985 PABL season. Army finished with a 5-win, 2-loss record in the eliminations, tied with ESQ Jag Jeans-Merchants, whom they lost, 75-83, their other defeat came at the hands of unbeaten Masagana 99, which top the elims at 7-0. In the round of eight, after losing to ESQ, 79-82 on November 8, the Jungle Fighters scored five straight victories, winning over Mama’s Love, 87-80, ERDC, 75-74, Masagana 99, 75-74, Arellano University, 65-61, and UE, 96-90, to enter the finals with still one game left in their schedule against Rizal Athletic Club on November 27. Eventually, Army won their first PABL championship after four conferences with a 2-1 series victory over Cebu’s Mama’s Love.
Members of the Army Jungle Fighters team were Zaldy Latoza, Pedrito Aninon, Nestor Bautista, Edgardo Valencia, Jaime Sanchez, Eduardo Baldomero, Oscar Feliciano, Demetrio Antonio, Dennis Carbonilla, national team member Benjamin Gutierrez, ex-pro Melvin Martin, Jeremias Aquino and Dwight Chua.
The Mama’s Love squad, coach by Jun Noel, which played in the tournament without Jojo Lastimosa, who was suspended by the management for playing with another Cebu ballclub Lhuillier in the Visayan league, were composed of Elmer Cabahug, Ricric Marata, Zaldy Realubit, Norberto Manalili, Jerry Aratan, Calvin Tuadles, Jesus Yuson, Danilo Lastimosa, Larry Villanil, Jose Bayona, William Calvo, Paul Abais and Edgardo Cenabre.
Equipment Research and Development Corporation (ERDC), placed third, during the eliminations, the Hawaiian Delights finished with a 6-1 won-loss record, losing only to Mama’s Love, 74-82, on opening day, they beat Maisagana, 73-64, Countryfair, 97-72, Letran, 93-68, Fuji Soy Sauce, 93-84, Rizal Athletic Club, 93-91, and UE, 104-88. ERDC was coach by Loreto Tolentino and assisted by Boy Clarino, their players were Joseph Pelaez, Ranulfo Robles, Joel Santos, Jerome Cueto, Noel Florenciano, Jaime Anselmo, Eric Altamirano, Raymund Celis, Nelson Asaytono, Gerardo Cabral, Edgar Amisola, Alex Regis, Mukesh Advani, Emmanuel Eleosida and ex-pro Florendo Ritualo.
Fourth placer Arellano University signed six players from the disbanded Lagerlite Beermen, which placed runner-up to ESQ Merchants in the previous Invitational conference sponsored by San Miguel Beer, the Flaming Arrows were also handled by Lagerlite coach Derrick Pumaren. The six Lagerlite players; Jeffrey Graves, Romeo Lopez, Anthony Mendoza, Dindo Pumaren, Alvin Teng and the first-ever PABL MVP Ludovico Valenciano, were joined by Leoncio Tan, Melchor Frogoso, John Oliva, Oliver Santos, Leonardo Bernardo, Arturo Herrera, Arsenio Pasion and Rizaldy Bernardo in the Arellano lineup.
The 1985 PABL season ended on December 2, with the Army Jungle Fighters showing no mercy in a 98-79 triumph over Mama’s Love in Game 3 to clinch the challenge to champions crown. The mythical five selection were composed of Most Valuable Player Jerry Codinera of UE, Jeffrey Graves of Arellano, Leo Isaac of Masagana 99, Ronnie Magsanoc of Rizal Athletic Club, and Demetrio Antonio of Army.