Now on to the 1978 PBA Invitational finals between defending champion Toyota Tamaraws and first-time finalist Tanduay Esquires. The best-of-five title series as follows:
Game One on December 7 – The match was close for three quarters until the Tamaraws broke away from a 109-all deadlock with a 14-4 run to lead by ten, 123-113, with less than four minutes to go in the final period. Toyota won, 129-123, with Francis Arnaiz topscoring with 31 points and Bruce “Sky” King added 29.
Toyota remains unbeaten by winning Game one, newspaper clippings taken from the National Library of the Philippines.
Game Two on December 9 – Tanduay surprisingly won in a low-scoring game, 92-80. The Esquires led by 15 early in the third quarter, 54-39, a 24-10 counter offensive by Toyota, led by Francis Arnaiz, put them back in the ballgame and were down by only one, 63-64. The Tamaraws played bad all throughout and had an off-night as pointed out by rookie coach Fort Acuna.
Tanduay takes Game two of the best-of-five title series.
Game Three on December 12 – Toyota led by 22 points early, but lost it and Tanduay even grabbed the upperhand in the third quarter. The Esquires led for the last time at 82-81, before a 6-0 run by the Tamaraws, anchored by Ramon Fernandez and Sky King, gave them an 87-82 lead. Toyota outscored Tanduay, 32-26 in the final quarter to win, 128-118, and a 2-1 series lead. Carlos Terry scored 41 points for the Tamaraws, four others scored in double figures for Toyota with Fernandez hitting 28 points, Sky King with 19 and Jaworski and Arnaiz with 18 points apiece. Gene Moore of Tanduay tied Terry’s output by scoring 41 points as well.
Game Four on December 14 – The defending champions Toyota retains the Invitational crown as they took control of the game right from the opening tip-off. The Tamaraws led by 21 after three quarters, 83-62. The Esquires did manage to narrow the gap to ten, 77-87 in the fourth quarter, behind Gene Moore, David Payne and Ricardo Cleofas. Toyota clinch their fifth PBA title in a 108-98 victory and their second championship of the season. Carlos Terry topscored for the Tamaraws with 36 points, followed by Ramon Fernandez with 23 and Sonny Jaworski with 16.
PBA Annual listings says the winning coach for Toyota in the 1978 Third Conference was Dante Silverio. I think this should be now corrected and that Fort Acuna won two titles for Toyota, unless the Invitational championship the following season was credited to Silverio, who resigned when the finals between Toyota and Crispa was on-going.
Coach Acuna utilizes only 8 men in the last two games of the series, besides the two imports and the big three (Big J, Arnaiz and Fernandez), the other Tamaraws were Abe King, Rino Salazar and Emer Legaspi. In Game 1, Nick Bulaong was fielded in. In Game 2, Estoy Estrada and Jess Sta.Maria did see action.
Crispa scored a 3-0 sweep over U/tex in their battle for third place, winning 107-96, 121-101 and 94-82.