This Day in PBA History: NCC becomes first local guest team to win championship

Rey Joble

Posted at Nov 28 2021 09:25 PM

When the Northern Consolidated program was created in 1981, the objective was to put up a national team ready to compete in a major international basketball tournament.

But in 1984 and 1985, the NCC squad coached by Ron Jacobs participated as a guest team in the Philippine Basketball Association.

The year 1984, NCC’s young players were given a reality check and Franz Pumaren, one of the mainstays of the squad, remembers it so well.

“We won in 1985, pero nu’ng 1984, first time we were a guest team, hirap na hirap kami. Nagkaroon kami ng reality check. These PBA players, we played against them during practices, but game time is different,” he said.

Pumaren, who played backup point guard to Hector Calma at that time, got an even closer look at these PBA legends they went up against the first time they competed as guest squad in Asia’s pioneering professional basketball league.

“At the height of the lockdown, when we can do nothing but to stay home, I got a chance to watch the old games. When you see those players, they were really skilled players — from (Francis) Arnaiz, (Robert) Jaworski, (Arnie) Tuadles. Nu’ng first tournament namin sa PBA, minamama talaga kami. They're skilled players. Maybe we're cohesive as a team. Coach Ron was way ahead of his time. Pero minamama talaga kami. Unang tournament namin, we were struggling,” Pumaren added.

But the team then, bannered by some of the top amateur players at that time — such as Allan Caidic, Samboy Lim, Calma, Yves Dignadice and Tonichi Yturri among others and reinforced by naturalized players Arthur “Chip” Engelland, Jeff Moore and Dennis Still — bounced back in 1985 and on this day, November 28, 1985, the team became the first local guest squad to win a championship in the PBA by sweeping the Manila Beer Brewmasters.

Engelland, the team’s dead shot, wasn’t fielded in by Jacobs as the team prepared to play for the ABC minus his services while they’re still working on his eligibility status.

But the finals were so decisive, probably one of the most lopsided finals series ever in the PBA.

NCC whipped Manila Beer, then reinforced by Francois Wise and led by former Crispa stars Atoy Co, Abet Guidaben and Yoyoy Villamin among others, in Game 1, 139-102, as the Nationals scored 42 fourth-quarter points.

Moore pumped in 53 points and was virtually unstoppable.

The next 3 games were no different as NCC completed the first ever sweep in a best-of-7 championship series.

Looking back, Moore relished the opportunity of becoming a part of the Philippine team program. 

“Being a part of the NCC allowed me to have special moments. I never knew we were making history 36 years ago winning the William Jones Cup, the ABC and PBA championships. What I remember about those days it was truly a grind, hard work every day, working out for months trying to prepare ourselves, under the guidance of Ron Jacobs, my friend and coach, who changed Philippine basketball forever,” wrote Moore in an online interview. 

“We had some of the most talented Philippine basketball players who turned out to be legends in their own right — Samboy, Elmer (Reyes), Hector among others, side by side with myself, Dennis Still and Chip Engelland. Every day was truly a battle with him, practice, exhibition games and then came the real gains in the PBA, which for me was one of the tougher basketball leagues I’ve played in.”

For Moore, playing in the PBA was a tournament for grownups.

“The competition was a man’s game. Rough, tough with a lot of talent. Truly made me rough and tough as well and allow me to travel the world and be prepared for whatever basketball league that came my way,” he said.

For Caidic, preparation was the biggest reason why the team became successful. 

“We stayed in one place (quarters) for a year to develop camaraderie, chemistry and solidarity. We practiced three times a day to polish everything (teamwork, skills, etc) we needed to attain our goal,” wrote Caidic in an online interview. 

“We were handpicked by Coach Ron to fill the spots he needed to be competitive and win it eventually. The program developed us to be disciplined, confident, and experienced to conquer all obstacles to attain our goal.”

As an amateur team, the NCC was exposed to a different brand of basketball — the Asian level (ABC), the PBA (professional level) and the World Inter-Club Tournament (world level).

“The main goal that time was to win back the ABC Championship, which we last won in 1973. So the Jones Cup, the PBA stint and even the SEA Games, Pesta Sukan and the World Inter-Club Championship in Spain were all part of the preparation,” added Caidic.

Truly, Year 1985 was a banner year for the NCC.

That year, the team won the Jones Cup, as the Philippines defeated a crack US Team, and then from late 1985 to early 1986 the NCC-backed squad reclaimed the ABC (now known as FIBA Asia Cup) title against China.

“I was asked by coach Ron to scout the Korean team and I told him, if we beat Korea, we’re going to win against China. Korea then was bannered by Hur Jae and Lee Chung-Hee,” added Derrick Pumaren, who worked as one of the assistant coaches of Jacobs.

But NCC’s victory in the PBA proved that the team belonged in the big boys’ club.

True enough, the core of the team became the nucleus of the San Miguel team which dominated in the late 1980s and won the grand slam in 1989.

Rey Joble is a sports journalist who has been covering the PBA since 1998, and followed the league as a fan way before that. 

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