Basketball history records says the famed YCO Athletic Club were the National Open (or National Seniors) champions from 1954-1960 and again in 1967-1968 after halting their rival Ysmael Steel Admirals’ own run from 1961-1966.
In the 1977 National Seniors which started on May 31, 1977 at the Rizal Coliseum. There were 34 teams that participated and at the end of the tournament, the YCO Painters, under coach Ed Ocampo, regains the prestigious crown. The Painters defeated defending champion San Miguel Braves, 101-96, in the final contest. The tourney’s top eight teams in the order of finish; YCO, San Miguel, Sunrice, Crown Motors, Yanmar, Manilabank, Philippine Air Force and Solid Mills.
The members of the champion Painters are Jaime Manansala, Joseph Herrera, Abe Monzon, Totoy Gagan, Alex Tan, Gregorio Gozum, Pablo Ocampo, Ben Brillantes, Nathaniel Castillo, William Johnston, Ely Capacio, Ramoncito Bugia, Eric Illustre and Mateo Kierulf.
The 1978 edition of the National Seniors had the YCO Painters acquiring the services of 6-8 Bonifacio de Jesus, the tallest amateur cager and Nilo Cruz from the disbanded Manilabank. The top six teams who will play in the final round after the 12-team semis were YCO, Yanmar, Solid Mills, Frigidaire, ITM and Romago Electric Company. Eliminated from the championship round were San Beda, UP, FEU-Glenmore, JRC-ACB, San Miguel and Sunrice.
The YCO Painters retains the National Seniors crown, winning against coach Nat Canson’s Frigidaire that has the likes of Joel Banal, Federico Lauchengco, Eduardo Merced, Rafael Sison, Leopoldo Herrera, Rolly Pineda, Ramon Cruz and Joey Marquez. Frigidaire (then Crown) has the same lineup that placed fourth in the previous National tourney, the only addition was Amadeo Sagarbarria, formerly of Manilabank.
The year 1979 saw the YCO Painters made it three in a row, winning the National Seniors title for the third straight time in a tournament that featured the debuting APCOR Financiers (soon to be the winningest amateur ballclub) and Summa Kumagai (which won the Interclub Invitationals later that year).
After more than a month of elimination games at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum. 10 teams have advanced into the semifinals, led by defending champion YCO Painters, the other teams that enter the semis were Builders Choice, Frigidaire, Masagana 99, Yanmar, Imperial Textile Mills, Solidenims, Kamayan, San Miguel and Letran.
The Painters had won the MICAA crown earlier and went on to toppled the American-laden Yanmar (coach by Boy Cantada), 110-104, on May 23 at the Rizal Coliseum. The team were unbeaten in the tournament and this time around, the Painters were handled by coach Freddie Webb. YCO was once again the country’s number one amateur basketball team. Their victory party were held at the Architectural Center in Makati.
YCO wins their third straight National Seniors crown. The multi-titled ballclub in the MICAA and National tournament, after more than 3 decades, disbanded at the end of the 1980 season.
Photos and Article credits to PBA Archives’ facebook account.