Toyota overcame the lost of five players because of six personal fouls and stunned Crispa in Game 1 of the 1976 PBA All-Filipino Conference finals. The Comets took the series opener despite trailing by 12 points in the third quarter.
Toyota wins, 119 to 115
By Ding Marcelo
Published Monday July 5, 1976
Toyota lost five men on fouls and then while the jampacked crowd gasped in intense anticipation, a pair of over-the-hill campaigners delivered the bombs that gave the Comets a 119-115 victory over the Crispa Redmanizers and a 1-0 lead in their best-of-five series for the All-Filipino PBA conference championship at the Araneta Coliseum.
Durable Joaquin Rojas, Jr., in the twilight of a storied career, and Rolando Marcelo, vainly seeking the form that catapulted him into prominence many years ago, scored back-to-back hits when it most mattered, putting Toyota ahead, 119-113, and on top of their arch-rivals whom they have now beaten three straight times.
Half of the story was carved on the foul throw line where Crispa ignominiously missed six shots in the last five minutes, four of them by the usually unerring Fortunato Co, and the star of the banned film “Uhaw...” will never probably lived down those misses.
The Redmanizers, who themselves reported minus the services of the fiery Bernardo Fabiosa and Philip Cezar who is serving the first of a three-game suspension for punching Comet Ramon Fernandez in the Crispa-Toyota match last Thursday, played with magnificence of a team seeking to correct a tarnished image.
They led by 12 points twice, the last time at 67-55 in the first minute of the third quarter, but the inching, fighting, clawing Comets, playing with tremendous courage, pulled ahead for the first time in the game during the final quarter, 93-92, to erase a third quarter 88-92 deficit on five straight baskets by Francis Arnaiz, Orlando Bauzon and Fernandez.
The lead changed hands 12 times after that before Aurelio Clarino connected, the hit preceding four straight foul throw misses by Crispa, two each by Alfredo Hubalde and Co, that put Toyota ominously ahead by three, 109-106.
Two successive hits by Arnaiz, sandwiched a five-point production by Co and William Adornado, 113-111. And when Crispa took a chance to level on the next play on Arnaiz's sixth foul, Co again missed two free throws.
“The opportunity for the win presented itself many times,” said a dejected Crispa mentor Baby Dalupan. “but the boys failed to parlay it into points.”
And he went on to cite the bad free throws although he expressed sadness at missing Fabiosa who is under observation for a suspected bum knee.
The rugged contest produced a total of 76 fouls, 42 by Toyota including six each by Fernandez, Jaworski, Segura, Clarino and Arnaiz who fouled out just a few minutes of each other.
With only 28 seconds left, when coach Dante Silverio had no one to turn to in place of Arnaiz who fouled out last among the five, he picked Gil Cortez, sidelined as early as the first quarter due to bad fall that caused his right knee to swell.
Cortez, unable to run and grimacing in extreme pain with each move, stood motionless in the Crispa front court while his teammates ran out the seconds to clinch the victory.
It was as if “El Cid” was reincarnated as his presence on the court, his knee bandaged, was too much for even the most diehard Crispa fan to ignore. One simply had to symphatize with him – and his team.
Coach Silverio praised his boys “for their unsurpassed fighting spirit” and said that despite being ahead, “ there is no guarantee that we will be champion. Crispa is a very hard team to beat.”
Even as jubilation swept the Toyota dugout, Adornado was banging his fists into the dressing room wall, unable to contain his dejection while his teammates watched in symphathy including Rey Franco who was thrown out for kicking Fernandez during a rebound scuffle midway in the third quarter.
The Redmanizers felt aggrieved that no can was made some seconds earlier when Rodolfo Segura threw what looked like a deliberate elbow at Tito Varela who came out of the match with bleeding mouth.
Fernandez led the Toyota production with 28, followed closely by Arnaiz with 27. Adornado scored a game-high 31 points while Co added 24.
The individual scores:
Toyota – 119
Toyota 30 25 33 31 - 119
Crispa 36 29 27 23 - 115