After 30 years, Crispa's win streak still unmatched
REY JOBLE, GMANews.TV
12/07/2010 | 10:42 PM
Thirty years ago, the Crispa Redmanizers, a team accustomed to winning championships, tried to establish a feat no team has ever achieved in the history of the Philippine Basketball Association — a perfect conference.
They came so close to achieving a perfect 20 in the 1980 All-Filipino Conference.
In a season that saw them unloading their biggest superstar in William “Bogs" Adornado — who was shipped to the U-Tex Wranglers in the first round of the Open Conference — the Redmanizers swept the first-round eliminations, winning all their nine games.
Atoy Co in one of his classic match-ups with Robert Jaworski. Crispa Facebook Page
They continued their romp all the way to the quarterfinal round, the short semifinal round and the finals.
“Crispa defeated Toyota, U-Tex, Gilbey’s Gin, Tanduay and Great Taste in the six-team quarterfinal round, so that stretched their winning run to 14," said basketball historian Atty. Percival Flores of MYPBA, a sports forum rich in basketball information.
“When the teams were down to four in the semis, the Redmanizers easily dispatched of the Tamaraws, the Rhum Masters and the Distillers in the single-round semis and extended their winning run to 17," added Flores.
But Jay P. Mercado, another basketball historian from MYPBA, explained that Crispa thought of a possible sweep only after the semifinal round.
“They didn’t think about keeping the streak until after the semis when they were still unbeaten. With just three games to win, they conjured visions of an unblemished record," said Mercado, also the Human Resources manager of a well-known fast-food chain.
Philip Cezar and Abet Guidaben compose the solid frontcourt duo of Crispa. Crispa Facebook Page
Behind their key players led by eventual Most Valuable Player Philip Cezar, Freddie Hubalde, Atoy Co, Bernie Fabiosa, Abet Guidaben, Joy Dionisio, Bong dela Cruz, Rey Pages, Tito Varela and rookie Joy Carpio, the Redmanizers had no problem winning the first two games of their best-of-five series against the Tamaraws.
Crispa outlasted Toyota, 108-101, in the series opener. In Game Two, the Redmanizers were more dominant, whipping the Tamaraws, 122-102, to come a win away of a perfect conference and celebrate December in a big way.
But the pressure was too much for the Redmanizers in Game Three.
“We were pressured. The players felt it," Co, the former Crispa team captain and a PBA Hall of Famer, told GMANews.TV.
Co added that the Tamaraws got an added boost with the firing of coach Fort Acuña at halftime of their Game Three encounter.
“If I recall, (Sonny) Jaworski wasn’t used in the entire first half, that’s why Fort was fired by Toyota management," added Co. “So, si Jawo na ang nag-coach ng Toyota from there."
Refusing to obey Don Pablo Carlos, team owner of Toyota, Acuña was fired at halftime and Jaworski was installed as playing coach.
The Big J then inspired the Tamaraws to a 97-94 win in Game Three, thus denying the Redmanizers the 20-game winning streak for a perfect conference.
In an interview with then Sports Weekly writer Vic Villafranca, Danny Floro admitted the pressure was so great, but that the loss didn’t deter his team from striking back and winning it all in the following game.
Members of the triumphant Redmanizers squad celebrate after beating Toyota, 3-1, in the 1980 All-Filipino Conference finals. Crispa Facebook Page
“I told the boys to forget about the sweep, but win the championship instead," Floro was quoted as saying.
And win the championship the Redmanizers did in Game Four.
Behind Cezar, Co and Hubalde, Crispa won the game convincingly, 105-91. The successful defense of the All-Filipino crown marked the Redmanizers’ eighth championship.
“Crispa would not have lost if the players were relaxed in Game Three," said Mercado. "They were so good back then that not even a perfect Toyota game could stymie a good Crispa game. Short of saying that Game Three was Crispa’s to lose, as they were so good they were practically capable of deciding their own fate."
From a good team to a great squad
Exactly how good was Crispa as a team?
Padim Israel, who joined the Redmanizers in 1981 together with several other players of the Apcor squad in the amateur ranks such as Mon Cruz, Bai Cristobal and Yoyoy Villamin, heard of that near-perfect run.
Bernie Fabiosa (right) is known as the PBA's 'Sultan of Swat' Crispa Facebook Page
But he and his batchmates with the Redmanizers had their own taste of success, becoming members of the champion squad in their rookie season and winning four more titles in the remaining four seasons of the fabled squad in the league.
“We had our success run, too. Every player at that time wanted to play for Crispa or Toyota. Iba kasi dahil madadala ka rin ng brand, eh," said Israel. “It’s a brand synonymous to winning. And we were fortunate to have a great coach in Baby (Dalupan). He was great in making substitutions and addressing match-up situations."
Thirty years have passed, and yet the 19-game winning streak established in a single conference remains unmatched. Ironically, the team that shattered that amazing streak in terms of games won consecutively was none other than Crispa itself.
The Redmanizers established another record in the 1983 PBA season, bridging the All-Filipino and the Second Conference when they posted a 21-game winning streak.
Crispa went on to complete a grand slam, the only team to be able to complete a triple crown twice in the league. And the biggest reason for the Redmanizers’ success that time was the acquisition of Billy Ray Bates, who was considered by many as the greatest import to play in the PBA.
Jong Uichico, nephew of Danny Floro, witnessed some of the Redmanizers’ games in the early years.
Freddie Hubalde (right) becomes Crispa's best small forward after the departure of Bogs Adornado. Crispa Facebook Page
“I remember a game when there were only seven Crispa players, yet they were still able to win. I cannot recall the year, but it was Chris Calilan who stood as the hero of that game because of his consistent shooting from the foul line," said Uichico in a telephone interview.
Tim Cone, a certified Toyota fan, although ironically idolizing Crispa’s legendary coach Baby Dalupan, was also a witness to the greatness of the Redmanizers.
“There were a lot of times Crispa was giving me heartaches because they would beat my favorite team Toyota, but I really idolized coach Baby. People would think Dalupan had it so easy for having such a talented team, but for a coach to handle the collective egos of those players and let them play as one was really a tough task, and coach Baby was able to do that. That’s why when we met in the finals in 1990, I was having goosebumps," said Cone.
In ten seasons in the PBA, the Redmanizers won 13 championships and two triple crowns, in the process winning the hearts of a multitude of long-time basketball fanatics.
- KY, GMANews.TV