The 1986 National Open basketball championships started on March 12 at the Rizal Coliseum. There were earlier talks about Masagana 99’s non-participation in the most prestigious basketball tournament. This would have meant kissing goodbye hopes of achieving a grand slam in the said meet. For the past two years, the Ricegrowers have dominated this tournament, they beat Bank of Rizal in 1984 and ESQ Merchants in 1985 for the title. Interestingly, those two teams beat Masagana 99 for the PABL championship in the first two conferences of the 1984 season.
Masagana 99 could have won three-in-a-row if not for the BAP rules of the tourney back in 1983 when the National Open and National Invitational were held simultaneously. The Ricegrowers swept all its assignments against local teams, it dealt De La Salle University a 75-71 defeat but lost out to the Green Archers via quotient system. La Salle was declared the 1983 National Open champion because of a victory against a foreign participant, Taiwan’s Flying Camels, which proved to be the deciding factor as all three teams finished with 3-2 won-loss slates.
For the 1986 Open tournament, there are 19 teams seeing action but so far, only 8 as of my research are confirmed to have participated, aside from Masagana 99 and sister team Maisagana 77, the rest includes Rizal Athletic Club, Metro Manila Colleges, Letran Knights, RFM-Swifts, Spencer-RTW and the highlight of this tournament, the return of the fabled Crispa Redmanizers in the basketball scene after a one-year absence.
The returning Crispa team, coached by Arturo Valenzona. The new Redmanizers includes Ato Agustin, Eric Altamirano, Glenn Capacio, Edgar Tanuan and Adriano Polistico.
Masagana 99, hit by player exodus at the start of the year but is known for its capacity to build up, pocketed their third straight national seniors title in three years, maintaining their supremacy. In the championship game against Rizal Athletic Club witnessed by an appreciative crowd, most of which were employees of the Agriculture Ministry, the Ricegrowers blew away the Rizalians (three scores were given, 100-82, 100-83 and 101-80) which had Cesar Calayag, Ronnie Magsanoc and Junel Baculi in the lineup.
And so it was a graceful exit for Deputy Minister and Masagana 99 director and coach Domingo Panganiban along with his coaching staff (Egay Gomez, Nemie Villegas, etc), the oldest amateur ballclub at that time exits on a high note. This mark the end of another chapter in the history of amateur basketball in the country.
Among the Masagana 99 players who were part of the 1986 National Open champion team are Leo Isaac, Jeffrey Graves, young star in a making-Pol Manimbo, George Ella, national player Elmer Reyes, Loreto Manaog, John Lucas, SSC’s Eton Navarro and FEU’s Romancito Roa.