Unlike the previous season where there are two guest foreign squads, the second staging of the PBA Invitational championship in 1978 will feature only the top five teams in the first two conferences. The first part of my blog entry are the single round-robin and how the two finalist; Toyota and Tanduay, made it to the championship. The second part is the best-of-five title series between the two protagonist for the Invitational crown.
The Third Conference of the 1978 PBA season started on November 25. Toyota beat Filmanbank, 131-125, in the first game. Tanduay edges Crispa, 74-73, in the second game which turn out to be the lowest scoring PBA game at that time.
On the third playing date on November 30, Tanduay was 2-0, coming off a win over Filmanbank, and were taking on Toyota Tamaraws in the first game. The match went into overtime as league MVP Sonny Jaworski converted two free throws off a foul by Freddie Webb with no time left, forcing extension at 116-all. Toyota won the game, 126-125. U/tex also scored their second straight win by beating winless Filmanbank in the second game.
Research from the National Library. As the story says here, there was confusion on whether Jaworski had to take free throws because the referee did not rule immediately, the Esquires were forced to return to the hardcourt.
Crispa finally scored their first win in the tournament after two straight losses, beating Filmanbank, 118-109, as the All-Filipino runner-up were shut out and didn’t win a single game. Toyota prevail over U/tex in the battle of unbeaten teams in the nightcap.
On December 5, the last scheduled playing date, the U/tex Wranglers and Tanduay Esquires are tied at 2-1 and will play for the other finals seat. The Toyota Tamaraws are already in the finals for the second time in the season. The Tanduay Esquires finally made it to the championship round by winning over U/tex, 98-92, with both imports Gene Moore and David Payne hitting 20 points each. Toyota completed a four-game sweep in the single round by defeating arch rival and already eliminated Crispa, 109-104, in the second game.
Tanduay is in the PBA finals for the first time in four seasons.
Had U/tex won over Tanduay, it would be fitting to see the two champions in the first two conferences played for the season-ending finale, but the Esquires of coach Caloy Loyzaga had other plans.