Despite being decimated by the absence of several players led by Philip Cezar for various reasons, Crispa erased an early deficit and stunned Toyota their 1976 PBA All-Filipino Conference finals series at 1-1.
Crispa stops Toyota, 117-112
By Ding Marcelo
Published Wednesday July 7, 1976
Crispa, reduced to only eight men by injuries and suspensions, bucked this monumental deficiency last night and rolled back Toyota, 117-112, to even up their best-of-five series at one win apiece, thus assuring a fourth game for the All-Filipino PBA championship at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Redmanizers, a death sentence seemingly hanging over their heads, responded with surprising efficacy – erasing an early 11-point deficit and then outplayed the double-teaming Comets in the final quarter to score the longshot victory to the delight of some 25,000 spectators.
Cristino Calilan, a tiny, sometimes panicky Crispa reserve who played under the shadows of his more illustrious teammates, helped preserve the victory, intercepting three times in the last quarter and banging in four crucial charities to emerge part-hero in the error-filled contest.
It was, however, Fortunato Co's two charities and William Adornado's back-to-back baskets that finally stopped the Comets on their tracks after a 6-0 splurge and narrowed down Crispa's lead to only five, 109-104, after enjoying an 11-point advantage earlier at 109-98.
From there, it was merely a matter of running out the time even as Toyota scored six more unanswered points, 115-111, before Calilan iced the victory with two more free throws.
It was a victory as classic as when Toyota rose from the grave to post the initial lead in their series with a come-from-behind 119-115 win.
This time the odds were heavily stacked against the Redmanizers who, aside from having two players suspended and another recuperating in a hospital for a suspected heart conditon, lost Tito Varela for the rest of the series after the rookie guard reinjured a recently-healed broken nose.
Bernard Fabiosa, who missed the first game owing to painful right knee, reported for duty enabling Crispa to have the minimum eight players to make the game official. Seven players would have given Toyota the game and the match reduced to an exhibition contest.
“It was the kind of game I asked them to give and they responded well,” said Crispa coach Baby Dalupan moments after the game.
The loss of the first game shocked Dalupan so much that he spent most of his time trying to encourage his boys. He delivered pep talks and even in last night's game, the Redmanizers appeared from the dugout a few minutes for start of the third quarter, prompting others to speculate that Crispa probably had given up the game.
And then the unexpected happened.
Crispa exploded with 13 points against Toyota's two at the start of the third quarter and immediately, the stands were alive as Crispa moved ahead for the first time, 64-63, from a halftime deficit of 51-59.
They increased this to 10, 87-77, at the end of the period and surged to their biggest lead, a 12-pointer, 107-95, on Calilan's charities, barely three minutes left in the game.
“As I've already said, Crispa is a tough team to beat,” coach Dante Silverio of Toyota said. “They played a beautiful game.”
Crispa's win assured the Redmanizers of Philip Cezar's services whose suspension will end on Sunday and should the series go to its five-game limit, Rey Franco, also nursing a three-game suspension, may make it in the fifth game.
Definitely out of the series, aside from Varela, is Virgilio de la Cruz who is having his heart checked.
Crispa – 117
Toyota – 112
Crispa 28 23 36 30 – 117
Toyota 31 28 18 35 – 112
Refs: F. Santarina, E. Cruz