This Day in PBA History: U/Tex edges Toyota in ‘miracle’ championship game

Rey Joble

Posted at Aug 02 2021 02:50 PM

It is considered one of the greatest championship games in PBA history and one of the greatest come-from-behind title-securing victories in the league.

The 1980 PBA Open Conference was a defining moment for the U/Tex Wranglers coached by one of the best bench tacticians in PBA history, Tommy Manotoc. For on this day, August 2, 1980, 41 years ago, the team considered by many as occasional gatecrashers will be remembered by long-time basketball fans as one of the greatest teams that made their mark in the league.

With only 16 seconds left in regulation, the Wranglers, bannered by the returning William “Bogs” Adornado, Lim Eng Beng, Fritz Gaston and imports Glenn McDonald and Aaron James among others, fought their way back from 4 points down, forced overtime, and pulled off a tense 99-98 win in Game 5 of their series to win the franchise’s second championship. 

Adornado, plucked from the Crispa Redmanizers during that season, described this championship as one of the greatest ever he had ever been around.

“For me, it is the most classic championship game in the history of the PBA. I call it the ‘miracle game’,” Adornado said in a message to ABS-CBN News.

Adornado reflected how this victory became a big part of his comeback trail.

A year before, during the 1979 All-Flipino Conference, the sweet-shooting forward played one of his best games in the finals coming off from a career-threatening knee injury. Back in those days, ACL tear injuries were a threat to a player’s career as treatment to such injuries was not yet advanced.

Known as the top gun of Crispa where he won the Most Valuable Player award in the first 2 seasons of the PBA (1975 and 1976), Adornado was sidelined by an injury from the second conference of 1976 all the way to the 1978 season. But he has not yet fully recovered and was even used sparingly by the Redmanizers.

In Game 5 of the 1979 All-Filipino finals against Toyota, he played point guard and scored 20 points as he helped the Redmanizers in winning the title. It was his best game since returning from an injury, but in the 1980 Open Conference, he was shipped to the Wranglers and taking over his spot at Crispa was Joy Carpio.

But Adornado, who made the last basket of the game in the final match of the 1980 Open Conference victory, capped not only the Wranglers’ comeback, but also his return to form as he was named the MVP for the third time the following season. The PBA Press Corps Comeback Player of the Year award was even named after Adornado. 

For Adornado, it was a miracle game, indeed. For the Toyota players such as import Andy Fields and Mon Fernandez, it was one championship they could never forget as painful setbacks such as this one would stick with you.

“That I can consider the most painful loss. Last 16 seconds, magcha-champion na sana kami. May naglabas na nga ng streamer namin. That’s what sticks to my mind really. ’Yung loss na ’yun. To me, that was unforgettable,” Fernandez said.

Fields started reinforcing Toyota starting the 1979 Open Conference, but the Tamaraws lost to the Royal Tru-Orange squad reinforced by Otto Moore and Larry Pounds. They got some payback when the Tamaraws defeated their arch-rivals, the Crispa Redmanizers, then carrying the brand Walk Tall Jeans in the season-ending Invitational Tournament, 3-1, in the best-of-5 championship series.

The Tamaraws had a chance to score back-to-back titles in the 1980 Open Conference and were 16 seconds away from winning the one that got away. 

 “We were up by 4 with 16 seconds to go and we lost,” Fields said. 

“We wound up losing that game. That’s something that stuck with me. I can’t forget that. It was stressing for myself because it’s very rare in a finals game that I lost my entire career -- college or pros -- when I got into the finals, normally, I came out victorious.”