Category Archives: Philippine Basketball Association

Ranking the Tanduay imports from 1985-1987

The old Tanduay ballclub of Don Manolo Elizalde. It was in their last three PBA seasons starting in 1985 in the ULTRA years when the team signed up three Crispa stars Abet Guidaben, Freddie Hubalde and Padim Israel, along with Willie Generalao of Gilbey’s, when they finally became a real threat and a contender for the PBA championship.

There have been nine imports that have played for Tanduay during that three-year period and the Rhum Makers would you believe actually had the best crop of imports compared to their finals rivals Great Taste and Ginebra, which had their share of lemons, Ginebra with Harold Driver and Anthony Hunter, and Great Taste having more. The likes of Ronnie Valentine (3rd round pick by Denver in 1980 NBA draft) and Freeman Williams (1st round pick and 8th overall, chosen by Boston in 1978 NBA draft), even though the Rhum Makers were eliminated in their respective conferences in 1985 and 1987 were no pushovers. Benny “the outlaw” Anders was replaced after two games mainly because the stakes were high on Tanduay’s grandslam bid in 1986 and fans were even anticipating his match-up with Billy Ray Bates of Ginebra.

Ranking the Tanduay imports from 1985-1987, the top two is a toss-up between their two best import awardees who led the team to a PBA title; Rob Williams and David Thirdkill. I would lean towards Thirdkill as the best among the Tanduay reinforcements as he was the more dominant import during the 1987 Open Conference. Thirdkill had a 51.9 average in 12 games in the eliminations, 49.6 points in six games in the semifinals and 52.4 points in the 4-1 finals victory against the Michael Young-led Great Taste.

Rob Williams and his sidekick Andre McKoy in the 1986 Reinforced triumph comes in at second and third. Williams averages 38.2 in 24 games and McKoy with 29.6 points per game average in 23 games. Williams overall averages 39.6 points, counting the 23 games he played in the Open Conference where the Rhum Makers finishes fourth.

David Pope, a favorite among PBA fans during the 1985 Open and was one of the only two Tanduay imports who isn’t teammate with Ramon Fernandez, is at fourth when he led Tanduay to an outright semis berth after the eliminations. Pope played 22 games and averages 34.9 points with a high of 61.

Andy Thompson, whom Tanduay finally settled as Rob Williams’ partner after four straight losses and two import change in the 1986 Open is fifth on my rankings. Thompson averages 23.5 points in 20 outings.

Ronnie Valentine, the only Tanduay import who became teammates with Guidaben and Fernandez after the trade between the PBA’s top two scoring and being handled by two coaches, Orly Castelo and Arturo Valenzona, is at sixth. He average 43.8 points in 15 games in the 1985 Third Conference.

Freeman Williams, who has the highest output for Tanduay imports with 82 points set in his second game in the PBA on October 6, 1987 is number seven. Williams averages 46.3 points and hit the 50-point mark five times in 10 games he played. But he had two off-nights and a miserable scoring of only 11 points, first in the opening game of the 1987 Third Conference where Tanduay was blown out by 43 points by Shell and in their second round elimination game against Great Taste.

Benny Anders is at eight, who arrived with a bang, only to be sent back home. He scored 27 and 40 points in two games. And finally at the bottom of the ladder is their former import Merlin Wilson, who was one of the first two imports to play at the PBA’s brand new home in ULTRA in Pasig when Tanduay played newcomer Shell in the first game of the 1985 PBA season. Wilson can only play two games and was replaced by David Pope. He played 16 games for Tanduay back in 1979 and probably holds the record then for a year-long gap upon return until Sylvester Gray broke it by playing for Anejo in 1990 and returning to play for Alaska in 1997.

Not to be forgotten is Billy Goodwin, a third round pick by Milwaukee Bucks in the 1983 NBA draft who never got a chance to display his stuff after the Tanduay management found him too small, standing less than 6-4. Goodwin was a replacement for Benny Anders in 1986 and was slated to play in their fourth game against Alaska. Coach Arturo Valenzona opted for temporary substitute Andre McKoy to teamed up with old partner Williams instead.




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Posted by on September 7, 2018 in Philippine Basketball Association


Which team won in the battle of PBA brand names

Who’s got the edge in the battle of corporate rivalries, team names with the same brand that played on the hardcourt. In this blog, I’ll talk about five of the PBA brand names which are Beer, Coffee, Milk, Softdrink and a Foodmaker identified with the Hotdogs. Somehow, Ice Cream products weren’t able to have a collision in the PBA as one year separates Magnolia (1987) and Presto (1988) as well as Presto already a defunct fanchise when Purefoods decided to renamed its team to Coney Island. And as I search the difference between a Rhum and a Gin on Google, Tanduay have also disbanded when La Tondena, Inc. change its product from Ginebra San Miguel to Anejo Rum 65 back in 1988.

Beer Hausen vs Gold Eagle (1984)

Interestingly, SMC opted not to used the San Miguel Beer flagship to compete directly with Beer Hausen and Manila Beer when Asia Brewery Inc. joined the league in 1984. Instead, they used their other Beer brand Gold Eagle and in the following year, Magnolia. I considered Gold Eagle Beer to be the weakest of all the team names of the now winningest PBA franchise. But another interesting of note is that season, Gold Eagle was able to acquire one of the top PBA superstars in former Toyota center-forward Abe King to go up against his former teammate Ramon Fernandez at Beer Hausen.

In the battle of Beers, Gold Eagle won their first meeting on April 8, 112-101. From thereon, it was all Beer Hausen in their next six matches. Ramon Fernandez scored his fourth triple-double of the season of 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assist as Beer Hausen exact revenge with a 95-94 squeaker the following month on May 8. Fernandez almost scored another triple-double of 35-9-13 in the Brewmasters’ 113-109 victory over Gold Eagle in their first meeting in the Second All-Filipino Conference on August 23. The second conference of 1984 was the first time the league will have a five-team semifinals and if not for the insignificant best-of-three quarterfinal pairings (Country Fair was 0-11), Beer Hausen and Gold Eagle, both with five wins and six losses, will probably clash for the last semifinals berth.

Great Taste vs Hills Bros (1987)

General Milling Corporation renamed its team in the 1987 PBA season from Alaska Milkmen to Hills Bros Coffee Kings. The corporate rivalry with the CFC ballclub Great Taste will no longer be Coffee vs Milk but Coffee vs Coffee. To this day, Great Taste 3-0 finals sweep over Hills Bros in the All-Filipino Conference remains as the only PBA championship between two teams with the same brand. Great Taste has the edge in the coffee war, winning six times to three for Hills Bros. In the Open Conference, two former Manila Beer imports who led the defunct Brewmasters to the finals in each of the last two seasons played against each other, Michael Young of Great Taste and Francois Wise of Hills Bros. The Coffee Makers won easily, 141-119 on April 26 as Young scored 45 points to Wise’ 42 points.

Alaska Milk vs Great Taste Milk (1988) / Alaska vs Tivoli Milk (1991) 

Great Taste title-clinching 109-108 victory over Hills Bros on September 8, 1987 was the last time they wear the orange and white jersey as the Coffee Makers. The ballclub decided to have a new, blue and white/yellow uniform as the Great Taste Milkmasters starting the one-week special PBA/IBA series. In the third conference, the Milk product of Great Taste was no match to the Coffee Kings of Hills Bros and got a broom, being beaten four straight times.

Despite two runner-up finishes by Hills Bros, its no surprise the team will return to the more refreshing name Alaska Milkmen come the 1988 PBA season. If the first two conferences last year was Coffee vs Coffee, this time, its Milk vs Milk. In their first meeting in the Open Conference, Great Taste played without an import for the second straight game and Alaska led by 19 points in the fourth period but had to overcome a furious rally by the Milkmasters to prevail, 112-106. Alaska repeated with a 133-119 victory on April 21 as Great Taste coach Baby Dalupan pulled away his starters at the start of the fourth quarter as a sign of protest on the referees’ sloppy officiating. In the All-Filipino, two individual scoring, season-high were made in an Alaska-Great Taste game. One half of the Bruise Brothers Yoyoy Villamin scored his personal-best 44 points in Alaska’s 135-122 overtime victory on July 14. Allan Caidic had the season’s highest output of 49 points and break his previous record for most three-point shots made by hitting nine triples in Great Taste’ 143-114 semifinals win on August 23. Incidentally, Great Taste forward Abe King’s first game of the season upon returning to the States was against Alaska on July 28 where the Milkmasters won, 112-108.

Three years later in the second and third conferences of the 1991 PBA season, the CFC franchise unveil another milk product and wear the green and white jersey of Tivoli Full Cream Milk, which I believe didn’t last long in the market. Alaska has the edge over the Tivoli Milkmasters, five wins to three, just as three year before in 1988, it was also five to three for Alaska over Great Taste Instant Milk.

Pepsi vs Pop Cola / Diet Sarsi (1990-1991)

The Softdrinks battle (though there was the least remembered Royal vs 7-Up in the 1970s), Pepsi was better than Pop Cola in the Cola War as their only two victories in their inaugural season in 1990 was against the fellow expansion team. When Cosmos decided for a different taste in Sarsi, the Sizzlers finally beat the Hotshots, 131-126, in the Third Conference.

In four meetings in the 1991 PBA season, Diet Sarsi won all their games against Pepsi and the scores were heartbreaks for the Hotshots, 132-130, 101-100 with Pepsi import Lanard Copeland missing the second of his two free throws with no time left, 98-96 in the opening game of the All-Filipino Conference where Sarsi trailed by 15 points at the start of the fourth period but won on Jack Tanuan’s tip-in with three seconds to go and Pepsi center Manny Victorino missing a free throw with a second left, and 108-106.

Purefoods vs Swift (1991-1992, 1993-1994)

The most popular of all the corporate rivalries in the PBA, after a second place finish by Diet Sarsi behind Purefoods in the 1991 All-Filipino, a corporate decision come out by RFM to introduce it’s new product, Swift Mighty Meaty Hotdogs, with the intention of matching the Purefoods Tender Juicy monicker.

Swift with the Mighty Meaty monicker in their jersey, won their only meeting with Purefoods in the 1991 Third Conference, 115-98 on October 6. The following year, Purefoods got the better of their first two matches, 106-90 in the pre-season PBA-China series and 131-128 double-overtime victory on February 13. Swift decided to drop the Mighty Meaty tag in their uniform as misfortunes seems to hound the team in the crucial stages of the eliminations. The simple and circle Swift logo brought in some good luck and the Mighty Meaties escaped with two victories over Purefoods, 115-114 on March 19 and 123-117 in a playoff for the last semis berth on March 26.

The Swift brand has the edge overall in seven out of the 10 conferences, winning 14 to 6. They were 9-0 over the Purefoods TJ Hotdogs in the third conference from 1992-1994, seven of those nine wins were courtesy of the hurricane Tony Harris.


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Posted by on September 4, 2018 in Philippine Basketball Association


PBA imports who played a minimum of 5 games but were replaced

Remembering these 8 PBA imports during the last three import-laden conference of the 1980s era who played a minimum of five games and were original reinforcements of their team before being replaced and never had a second tour of duty.

1988 Reinforced Conference

Kevin Gamble (1 win, 4 loss for Anejo) – A lot of PBA pundits felt he wasn’t a bad player. Gamble was cut by Anejo Rum 65 after averaging 38 points in five games. He was the hero in Anejo’s only win during that period, scoring 14 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter as the 65ers beat Purefoods, 117-112 on October 11. Gamble’s heroics weren’t enough to convince playing-coach Sonny Jaworski to retain his services. He could have already been released if not for Jamie Waller’s decision to flew back home. Despite knowing he was on his way out, Gamble suited up in his last game against Shell and tossed in 34 points in Anejo’s 132-143 loss to the Diesel Oilers, who spoiled the debut of new Anejo import Tommy Davis.

George Almones (4 wins, 2 loss for Presto) – The late Almones average 21 points per game after the first round of eliminations. He suffered a hamstring injury and played only for five seconds against Anejo on October 13. He scored 45 points in his farewell game against Anejo on October 20, a 143-130 Presto victory. The decision to let go of Almones in favor of Tony White was a painful one for coach Baby Dalupan, who felt Almones played exceptionally well. He was already considered in the third conference last year by Presto (then Great Taste), along with Ray Hall, to be their import.

Eddie Cox (3 wins, 2 loss for Alaska) – Cox averaged 27 points and 8.6 rebounds in five games he played. But it was evident that Alaska would have a much better chance with a bigger import to help out Willie Bland than the smaller Cox, who finished third in the slam dunk competition in the PBA/IBA series. His replacement was the stocky David Boone.

Ray Hall (No win, 5 loss for Purefoods)- Sugar Ray Hall, the MVP of the first PBA-IBA series a year ago, scored 46, 31 and 45 points in Purefoods’ first three games but the Hotdogs’ usual winning ways was lost. He was the lone import that went up against Billy Ray Bates and Kevin Gamble of Anejo as his partner Tim McCalister refused to show up upon learning of a replacement on the way. In Purefoods’ last game in the first round of eliminations against Alaska, the Ray Hall-Perry Young tandem seems to be perfect already but Hall fractured his wrist and with him hurting and Young fouling out, the Hotdogs blew a 16-point lead and lost to the Milkmen by six, 97-103 on October 16.

1989 Open Conference

Carl Lott (2 win, 4 loss for Alaska) – Lott was a dismal failure in their opening game against Presto on March 5, scoring a miserable 16 points, a disappointing 11 points followed in a 104-107 cliffhanger loss to Purefoods. In his third and fourth game, Lott improved his output by tossing in 32 and 33 points but Alaska still lost to San Miguel and Shell in overtime. The Airmen finally scored their first win in a 105-104 squeaker against Anejo and Lott scored only 14 points. He had his personal-best of 40 points in his final PBA game as Alaska won for the second straight time, a 131-129 victory over Purefoods. His supposed earlier replacement by the name of Tom Sewell was measured 6-3 3/8. The maximum height of the imports in the conference was 6-3. Carl Lott was the last of the Alaska imports before the Tim Cone era as he was under coach Bogs Adornado. He was replaced by Sean Chambers.

Jimmy McClain (2 win, 3 loss for Purefoods) – He was already considered obscure when he came here. But McClain, one of the two in this listings, along with Cox to have never been drafted in the NBA, is not that bad of a player. He has a decent medium-range and outside jumper. McClain banged in 48 points in his debut in the Hotdogs’ losing cause against Shell. He led Purefoods in scoring in the other four games he played with 34, 49, 40 and 35. McClain’s problem is he’s just too lean to create waves in the PBA.

1989 Reinforced Conference

Keith Smart (3 win, 2 loss for San Miguel) – Smart was a big flop in his first game and the Beermen were routed by Purefoods. He finished with 27 points on a atrocious 10 of 35 field goal shooting and was hardly a factor in defense. In his second game against Anejo, the Beermen had a chance to tie the score with less than 20 seconds remaining but Smart flubbed a layup that could have sent the game into overtime. Smart improved a bit in his next three games, leading San Miguel to all victories, even scoring the winning three-point play against Presto with five seconds remaining in a 139-136 win on October 15. Still, SMB coach Norman Black made the smartest move by replacing Smart with NBA journeyman Ennis Whatley.

Steve Burtt (1 win, 4 loss for Shell) – Burtt was released because of injuries. He was averaging 45.25 points per game with a high of 57 when he reportedly suffered from a hamstring injury. Shell was forced to use a no-choice replacement in Andy Grosvenor, a cousin of Dexter Shouse whose main purpose was to pace Purefoods’ Shouse during practices. Burtt scored 50 points in his last PBA game on October 15 against Anejo Rum where Carlos Briggs became only the fifth man in PBA history to pass the 80-point mark in Anejo’s 135-132 thriller over Shell.

Actually, there have been a lot more during the decade and most notable of those imports were Arnold Dugger (1982, six games) and Kevin Porter (1983, eight games) of Toyota, Doug Harris of Manila Beer (1985, seven games), the pair of Johnny Brown and Eric Turner of Great Taste (1986, six games), and Jeff Taylor of Great Taste (1987, five games).

References: Atlas Sports Weekly October 14-21, October 28-November 4 & November 4-11, 1988 issue, Champ Magazine dated March 28 & October 31, 1989, Sports Flash dated October 5-11 & October 12-18, 1989, Sports Eye March 16-22, 1989 issue.

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Posted by on August 30, 2018 in Philippine Basketball Association


The 90s best PBA player comparisons: the Captain vs the Bull

During the 1980s, there’s no doubt the best PBA player match-up and the most evenly-match belongs to the Centers of attraction, Ramon Fernandez and Abet Guidaben, as in my previous blog entry, they were both involved in a celebrated trade not once but twice, the two combined for six out of the ten Most Valuable Award in the decade.

In the 1990s, I can’t find any other better player comparisons that could equal that of Fernandez and Guidaben than the power forwards this time, former national teammates Alvin Patrimonio and Nelson Asaytono. From the time Asaytono moved out of Patrimonio’s shadow at Purefoods in 1992 and joining corporate rival Swift and later on with San Miguel Beermen, the two top forwards would lead their respective teams to eight finals stint from 1992 to 1998. In fact, during that period, there would at least be a conference in every season where either the Captain’s team or the Bull’s team will play in the PBA finals, Patrimonio won three championships while Asaytono won four, all with the RFM ballclub. As teammates at Purefoods, they do won two championships together.

They do battle against each other in the PBA finals once in the 1993 Commissioner’s Cup where Swift prevailed over Purefoods, four games to two. Back in the amateurs, Asaytono was actually 2-0 over Patrimonio in the 1987 PABL conference finals, Nelson was a borrowed player by Swift that scores a 2-0 series victory over Patrimonio’s YCO shinemasters, later that year, Asaytono’s mother team Magnolia defeated Swift, 3-1, that has Patrimonio now playing for the RFM franchise.


Its been nearly 25 years since these two go up against each other in the PBA finale. Magazine cover credited to PBA archives’ facebook account.

As we look at their stats in their respective battles, definitely the Captain Alvin Patrimonio has the edge, the best basis is the All-Filipino tournament, from 1992-1994 when Asaytono was at his peak form long before Vergel Meneses became the top man of the Swift/Sunkist ballclub, Patrimonio’s team Purefoods won nine of their 12 meetings with Swift in the All-Filipino. Incidentally, Asaytono’s highest scoring output came against Purefoods on July 2, 1992 in Swift’s 106-110 loss where the bull scored 48 points while Patrimonio himself came up big with 37 points and a winning follow-up shot that sealed the ballgame.

Aside from their only finals meeting, Patrimonio and Asaytono were match up in three best-of-five semifinal series in the 1990s. The Captain’s team won two (Coney Island 3-0 over Swift in 1993 All-Filipino and Purefoods 3-2 over San Miguel in 1997 Governors Cup) and the Bull winning one (Sunkist 3-2 over Purefoods in 1995 Commissioner’s Cup).

How they fared against each other in the semifinal series, In Coney Island’s 3-0 win over Swift, Patrimonio scored 31 and 35 points in the first two games, Asaytono scored 33 and 32 points in Games two and three, Asaytono got the better average of 25.67 points compared to 23.33 points for Patrimonio only because Alvin was ejected in the first half of Game three following a scuffle with Swift’s Eric Reyes. In the import-laden conference, it’s Patrimonio having the better scoring averages. In the 1995 Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series, the Captain averages 23.6 points in the five-game series while Asaytono only average 10.8 points. So far, im still looking for their complete stats in the 1997 Governor’s Cup semifinal series. Before that, Asaytono was second behind Marlou Aquino in statistical points for the MVP race in the 1997 season while Patrimonio was fourth after the quarterfinal series. Too bad Nelson could not win the Most Valuable Player trophy that year as it went to the Captain, who won his fourth MVP award.

Not counting the 1998 Centennial Cup and Governor’s Cup as Patrimonio was on loan to the Centennial National team, the number of victories by their teams in their head-to-head battle (unless one of them missed out a game) from 1992-1998 was 45 wins for Asaytono (33-22 with Swift/Sunkist and 12-16 with San Miguel) and 38 wins for Patrimonio.

In 1999, with the influx of Fil-Ams in the league, both Asaytono and Patrimonio missed out a finals appearance. Nelson has just return to his former ballclub Pop Cola when San Miguel won two straight championships that year.



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Posted by on August 13, 2018 in Philippine Basketball Association


El Presidente’s incredible night with Purefoods

30 years ago on August 11, 1988, it was the start of the semifinal round of the PBA All-Filipino Conference. The second game of the double-header pitted the top two teams at the end of the eliminations, Purefoods Hotdogs and San Miguel Beer. What is so significant about this game? Well this was the highlight of former Purefoods playing coach Ramon Fernandez’ two-conference stint with the Hotdogs. And what exactly did he achieve in this match? Answer, he just scored 47 points, pulled down seven rebounds and issued 11 assist. What is impressive is that Don Ramon was pushing 35 years old that year when he made this scoring feat.

Before their semifinals meeting, the Hotdogs defeated the Beermen in their two previous encounters in the eliminations, 121-110 in the opening of the All-Filipino on June 26, and 103-98 on July 21. In the Open Conference, the count was seven for the Beermen and four for the Hotdogs, including the epic 4-3 series victory by San Miguel in the championship.

So in this 14th meeting of both teams in the 1988 season, Purefoods is set to levelled the count at seven wins each and right from the very first quarter, ‘El Presidente’ Ramon Fernandez was all business as he scored 20 points alone and Purefoods took a commanding 20-point lead, 45-25, seconds before the buzzer ending the first period. The Hotdogs settled for a 67-59 count at halftime and 97-92 lead at the end of the third quarter.

In the fourth period, the lead of the Hotdogs that once stood at 20 points vanished into thin air as the Beermen opened up four-point spreads at 118-114 and 120-116. Ramon Fernandez refuse to wilt under pressure, he went straight to the hoop to cut the Beermen’s lead to two and when his rival Abet Guidaben tries to get back with a basket and missed, Fernandez converted on a shot plus a foul. He completed a three-point play, his 45th point for the night as the Hotdogs regain the upperhand, 121-120. Fernandez scored his last seven points on a 9-0 run by Purefoods to take a 125-120 edge.

The game was tied for the last time at 125-all with 1:20 left. On the Hotdogs inbound play, Fernandez issued a pass to Jojo Lastimosa, who converted a triple for a 128-125 count. After SMB lost possesion on the next play, Fernandez found Jerry Codinera wide open underneath for a basket that sealed the ballgame for the Hotdogs, 130-125 with 14 seconds remaining.

Following this incredible performance by Fernandez, which is his best scoring output for the season after giving up the coaching chores four games into the All-Filipino Conference, who would have thought a month later on September 11, Fernandez would don the Purefoods jersey for the last time as he sat on the bench in Game three of the All-Filipino finals against Anejo Rum 65.

Purefoods (132) – Fernandez 47, Lastimosa 24, Patrimonio 14, Codinera 12, Solis 11, Marquez 10, Generalao 8, Tanuan 4, Capacio 2.

San Miguel (125) – Brown 22, Calma 20, Reyes 18, Guidaben 17, Dignadice 15, Teng 15, Graves 9, Pumaren 5, Almario 2, Yturri 2, Cui 0.

Quarterscores: 45-27, 67-59, 97-92, 132-125

Purefoods’ fourth and final match against San Miguel in the All-Filipino, a 119-116 victory on August 23 with rookie Jojo Lastimosa providing the big basket for a comfortable five-point lead with 46 seconds left and the Beermen having one last attempt to equalized the count after a risky pass by Fernandez was intercepted by Abet Guidaben but Ricardo Brown’s 30-foot shot bounced off the rim at the final buzzer. As we all know, Fernandez would switch jerseys with Abet Guidaben after the All-Filipino finals in a surprising trade, the second time around in three years between the top two centers of the league. So as far as Ramon Fernandez in Purefoods uniform and Abet Guidaben in San Miguel jersey is concern, the count is eight wins for the Hotdogs and seven for the Beermen.



NCC: The national team that won a PBA crown in 1985

The Northerners of the late great, national team coach Ron Jacobs, Northern Consolidated or Northern Cement, whatever you call it, won the PBA championship back in the 1985 Reinforced Conference. During that time, it was referred as guest amateur team to win, but they aren’t an amateur ballclub but the national team that won the Jones Cup tournament in the middle of the year, carrying the colors of San Miguel Beer, retaining the SEA Games basketball gold in December and winning back the ABC crown for the country in the first week of January 1986.

The six PBA ballclubs, Great Taste was expected to win the grandslam in 1985, having won four straight titles in a row and seem to be a perfect team to join the 1976 and 1983 Crispa Redmanizers among the elite club of grandslam champions. Four teams – Tanduay, Manila Beer, Ginebra and first-year ballclub Shell – have zero championship and were never locked to win a PBA title, at least that year, not just yet. Norman Black’s Magnolia, now renamed Magnolia Quench Plus, an overachieving squad that placed second to Great Taste in the first conference and were eliminated in the All-Filipino, will probably remain only second to the Coffee Makers no matter how many times they played in the season.

NCC was least likely to win too, as in three previous conferences they participated in the PBA, At best, Ron Jacobs’ boys should only be playing in the battle for third place. But in one of the league’s very first, they won the 1985 PBA Third Conference crown in unprecedented fashion, the first-ever 4-0 finals sweep in PBA history against the Manila Beer Brewmasters. It was not considered an upset but its certain we will never see again a group of local cagers straight out from college and reinforced by two Americans, winning big against pro teams with seasoned veterans. And if anyone watches the Northern-Manila Beer finale on youtube, one would notice how merciless the NCC players were against their opponents even when leading by 30 points, thats how American mentor Ron Jacobs molded the team into a discipline unit with a killer instinct. Aside from Manila Beer, Ron Jacobs’ boys were so hard on two other teams with top centers on a protected list – Great Taste and Tanduay. In five victories in six meetings with the Coffee Makers, NCC won by an average of 16 points. In three wins against Tanduay, NCC had an average winning margin of 19 points. So far, Northern’s worst nightmare happens to be crowd-favorite Ginebra San Miguel, which had the edge in their five matches, three wins to two, and there is this “pahiyang” against Magnolia, which emphatically beat Northern three times (Magnolia was 4-1 over NCC in the Open).

I had personal preferences on the NCC roster that won the PBA crown with naturalized players Jeff Moore and Dennis Still and the 10 local players who all made it to the pros, led by Samboy Lim, Allan Caidic, Yves Dignadice and Hector Calma, compared to the team which placed third in the Open Conference and that has a third naturalized player in Arthur ‘Chip’ Engelland (Still was actually the 3rd since Engelland played first in the PBA a year before), along with Leoncio Tan Jr. and Joseph Uichico in the lineup. UE’s Jerry Codinera and UST’s Pido Jarencio and Benjie Gutierrez were not yet part of the team that went to Taipei in the Jones Cup.

Northern started out the third conference with a narrow 106-107 loss to Ginebra on September 10, which had import Michael Hackett, a 1982 draft pick by the LA Lakers and the PBA’s soon-to-be first 100-point man, debuting with 49 points. They won their next two games against Manila Beer, 106-94, and Tanduay, 110-101, and then lost to Shell, who were 0-3 before their match, 104-106. Since this is the first full conference i’ve followed, I was hype to see how Northern would fare against Great Taste in their next outing on September 24, which will be shown on delayed telecast as it was scheduled in the first game. It turn out Great Taste played importless in the game as import Wally Rank have already left the team and the Coffee Makers easily lost, 120-133. Northern finish with three wins and three losses in the first round of eliminations and coming off a 90-98 defeat to Magnolia in Cabanatuan City on September 28.

NCC won four of their next five games in the second round with Magnolia again as their unlikely tormentor. One of their biggest victories was against Shell on October 1st where they held the Bugbusters to a record-low five points in the first quarter, a record that stood for more than a decade, they do allow the Bugbusters to score 53 points in the final quarter in a 147-111 victory. On the last three playing dates, both Ginebra and Magnolia were upset by lowly teams Tanduay and Shell, and Northern was expected to join Manila Beer in the outright semifinal slot but the Brewmasters defeated NCC, 126-121, on both teams last assignment on October 17, thus creating a triple tie for second place and pave the way for what could be the most discussed and favorite topics among old-school basketball fans, the birth of the never-say-die spirit of the league’s most popular team – Ginebra San Miguel.

As everyone knows, Ginebra beat Northern, 99-96, in a classic contest on October 22. Fast-forward two weeks later on November 5, NCC and Great Taste have joined Manila Beer and Ginebra at the start of the four-team, two-round semifinals. Northern was paired against their waterloo Ginebra San Miguel and lost, 97-101. Another defeat, this time against Great Taste, 97-102, as the Coffee Makers nailed their first victory over NCC in the conference, strengthen the notion that the nationals are only as good as making it to the final four.

In a repeat of their memorable playoff encounter two weeks before, NCC again controlled the match for three quarters but Ginebra got the breaks in the end. Here in this photo as written in the Atlas Sports weekly magazine issue dated November 15, Dennis Still was called for a pushing foul on Ginebra import Michael Hackett, he was infuriated by the call and was thrown out of the game, Still took a towel and threw it at the referee before leaving the hardcourt. Hackett had only 11 points before Still’s ejection in the third period and with no Dennis to handcuff him in the fourth quarter, Hackett went to town and finished with 37 points.

An article came out on a newspaper the next morning on coach Ron Jacobs’ thoughts on the PBA being unfair to them. NCC came back from those two losses with a 130-95 rout over Manila Beer, held import Francois Wise to a low output of 14 points. At the start of the second round, Northern finally escape with a 115-108 win over the hard-fighting Ginebras and they made it closer to the finals by beating their favorite whipping boy Great Taste (aside from Manila Beer), 125-102. The NCC core would suffer their final defeat as a team in the battle for the first finals seat versus Manila Beer.

The usually cool Samboy Lim blew his top and is about to confront Ramon Cruz if not for the cooler hands that prevailed over him. Manila Beer clinch the first finals berth with a 99-93 win, dropping an 18-2 bomb in the fourth quarter after trailing, 80-89. This was the last defeat of the NCC. The nationals would sweep their way to the PBA championship and were unbeaten in the SEA Games and ABC Championship along with the two farewell exhibition game against a PABL selection.  

In the playoff game against Great Taste on November 19, NCC ended the Coffee Makers’ grandslam bid as early as the first half when they led by 20 points, 70-50. Great Taste’ main scorer Ricardo Brown has yet to score in the game and he would remain scoreless in the second half. Except for the brief run by Great Taste late in the third quarter to cut the lead to 14, it was NCC all the way, coach Ron Jacobs pulled out his starters late in the game and the second stringers even added insult to injury with Alfie Almario first hitting a trey and then Elmer Reyes scoring back-to-back triples to the delight of the cheering NCC bench. The final tally was 123-107 for Northern.

Interesting to note that NCC had the same won-loss records after the eliminations, quarterfinals and semifinals of their title-conquest in the third conference and their third place finish earlier in the first conference of the 1985 PBA season. 7-5 after 12 games, 9-7 entering the semis (NCC beat Manila Beer in a playoff in the 1st Conference), and 3-3 after the semifinal round. The only difference is they were a game behind short of a finals berth in the first conference. In their championship run, they won 17 and lost 10, and only twice did Northern lose by double-digit margin, both against Magnolia, 96-106 in the second round of elimination on October 8, and 93-105 in the quarterfinal round on October 27.

The last hurrah of the great national team of coach Ron Jacobs, which first started in 1981 as the RP Training team, in a homecoming as the new ABC Champions in January 1986 with a jampacked crowd on hand at the Rizal Coliseum against a PABL selection reinforced by Norman Black and the late Darryl Smith. The Nationals won, 105-78. They play the selection again, this time without all American reinforcements and repeat with an 84-79 win.

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Posted by on February 24, 2018 in Philippine Basketball Association


PBA best rivalries’ top 10 matches: Tanduay vs Ginebra (3rd of 3 parts)

The last four on my list are all Ginebra victories. As I concluded my top 10, both teams had five wins each. I’ve chosen five in the eliminations, three from the title series and two from the semifinals.

7.) May 10, 1987 (Ginebra 127 Tanduay 124) – A month after their first meeting won by Tanduay in two overtimes. Their second round confrontation in the 1987 Open Conference was the only one in my list that was played in the first game of a double-header. It was a hot, Sunday afternoon and the ULTRA venue was jampacked as early as 5pm. The memorable highlight of this game was the shouting match or the war of words between Ginebra playing coach Sonny Jaworski and Tanduay coach Arturo Valenzona. The game itself had Tanduay led by 15 points at halftime, 67-52, but Ginebra came roaring back in the third quarter and tied the count at 97-all, going into the last period. With the score at 102-all, seven more deadlocks and three lead changes marked the fourth quarter. Dondon Ampalayo’s basket inside the keyhole with 31 seconds left shattered the game’s last deadlock and give Ginebra a 126-124 lead. The Rhum Makers bungled two opportunities to equalized on the return play as both Willie Generalao and Freddie Hubalde missed their attempts from short range. Hackett pulled down the defensive rebound and in a process, drew Thirdkill’s sixth and last foul with only a few seconds left in the game.


In his weekly column on Sports Flash, the Big J in the last part of the write-up, talks on his shouting match with Tanduay coach Turo Valenzona.

8.) August 26, 1986 (Ginebra 90 Tanduay 86, Game one of AFC finals) – The two semifinal matches of Ginebra and Tanduay in the 1986 All-Filipino conference resulted to a four-point victory each for both teams. Ginebra beat Tanduay, 94-90 on August 12, where the Rhum Makers nearly stage a walkout in the final minute when the coaching staff didn’t like the referees’ call. Tanduay got back at Ginebra with a 96-92 win a week later on August 19, it was the Gins’ first attempt to secure a finals seat but was stop by the Rhum Makers in a whirlwind finish. The following week on August 26th, the two teams will now battle for Game one of the championship series which resulted to another four-point winning margin. The hype on the “grudge” between the Big J and El Presidente was a disappointment in the first game as Fernandez sat out for most of the game because of fouls. Fernandez scored the final point for Tanduay on split free throws which tied the count for the last time at 86-all before Terry Saldana and Francis Arnaiz provided the winning baskets for Ginebra.

9.) November 2, 1986 (Ginebra 126 Tanduay 118) – As of this writing, there are no source yet that I could find, but based on my recollections on the All souls day match, it was an uphill climb for Ginebra on their way to victory, their first against Tanduay since losing to the Rhum Makers in the All-Filipino championship. The only certain here is that it’s a Billy Ray Bates-Rob Williams battle so its expected to be unpredictable and explosive. I do read that Rob Williams had to leave the game late in the fourth quarter because of the rough plays and hard fouls on him by the opposing team.

10.) August 6, 1987 (Ginebra 106 Tanduay 103) – Interestingly, the last on my top 10 list as I posted this happened 30 years ago on August 6th, and it was also the last schedule of eliminations in the 1987 All-Filipino conference and it drew lesser attendance but still a fairly-sized crowd. For the two protagonist of the All-Filipino finals last year, one of them has to be eliminated and Ginebra, one game better than Tanduay with a 3-4 won-loss slate compared to the Rhum Makers’ 2-5, definitely had a better shot than the defending champions, who needed to win to force a playoff. An added spark for Ginebra was the return of playing coach Jaworski from the United States, his first appearance in the conference and the first time he will sit on the bench side by side with Ginebra’s new recruit Rudy Distrito, who has been playing well for the team on Big J’s absence. The game was slightly delayed on TV and the Ginebras controlled the tempo for most of the first three quarters and Tanduay playing catch-up. The most memorable highlights of this game came in the last 2:33 when Tanduay threatened to within two, 98-100. The Rhum Makers blew a chance to tie the game and when Joey Loyzaga converted on a three-point play to make it 103-98 for Ginebra. Ramon Fernandez went two-for-two from the free throw line to cut the lead to three. Tanduay had a chance again to inch closer but Freddie Hubalde missed on an easy layup. Joey Loyzaga split his free throw for a 104-100 lead with only 25 seconds left in the game clock. The Rhum Makers were now hoping for a miracle and Willie Generalao answered when he converted a three-point shot from 30 feet out, cutting the deficit to just one, 104-103, with time down to 18 seconds. Tanduay gave a quick foul and Chito Loyzaga sank both of his free throws. Rudy Distrito blocked a desperation three-point shot by Itoy Esguerra on the final play and it was over for the Rhum Makers. This game turn out to be the last time coach Turo Valenzona had called the shots for Tanduay as he was unceremoniously sacked by the management.


This was taken from Part of the game column and written by Tessa Jazmines on Sports Weekly Magazine dated September 12-19, 1986, after the four-game title series, describes how never in a long time there have been such classic clash as this one since the Crispa-Toyota days.

Sources: Credits to PBA archives, Champ Magazine September 9, 1986 issue, Champ Magazine May 26, 1987 issue, Sports Weekly Magazine August 14, 1987 issue, Sports Flash May 1987 issue.