This Day in PBA History: Crispa posts longest winning streak in a conference at 19

Rey Joble

Posted at Dec 09 2021 10:37 PM

Crispa is regarded as one of the greatest teams — if not the greatest — ever to play in the PBA. 

In 10 seasons competing in the PBA, the fabled squad registered record-breaking feats, including 2 Grand Slams, and 13 championships, which was held by the squad until San Miguel, the only remaining founding member of Asia's pioneering professional basketball league, overtook Crispa in 2000.

One of the numerous remarkable feats of the Redmanziers happened on this day, 41 years ago, December 9, 1980, when the squad posted the longest winning streak in a conference at 19 games.

So dominant were the Redmanizers that they stretched their winning streak to 19 capped by a 122-102 victory over fierce rival Toyota Tamaraws in Game 2 of their best-of-5 All-Filipino championship series for a commanding 2-0 lead and a chance to complete a perfect conference.

Leading the way for the Redmanizers was Philip Cezar, who sizzled for 27 points. 

Known as "The Scholar", Cezar wound up winning Most Valuable Player by the end of the season.

There was no stopping the Redmanizers from posting the longest winning run in PBA history as Toyota could only offer a token resistance. 

The Tamaraws missed the services of Francis Arnaiz due to an injury while Robert Jaworski played in pain and dragged his hurting foot just to inspire the rest of the team, but that wasn't enough to spark Toyota.

Winning 19 straight games in a conference stands as a record even to this day and no other team broke the record except the Redmanziers themselves, who posted a 21-game winning run bridging the All-Filipino and second conferences of the 1983 season with new coach Tommy Manotoc at the helm.

But why was Crispa so dominant even after trading its top gun, William "Bogs" Adornado?

In the early phase of the elimination round of the 1980 Open Conference, Adornado was shipped to the U/Tex Wranglers and taking over his spot was young Joy Carpio, a former player of head coach Baby Dalupan at Ateneo. 

Atoy Co emerged as the Redmanizers' top gunner from thereon, while Freddie Hubalde rose to prominence and benefited when Adornado was sidelined by a knee injury for more than two years.

Still, the Redmanizers were a wrecking machine.

"Kaming mga naiwan sa grupo, ang hangarin lang rin talaga is manalo," said Co. "Kahit sino pa yung mawala. Ang gusto talaga, manalo lang."

Looking back, Bernie Fabiosa attributed the team's success to the camaraderie, from the management, coaching staff and the players.

"Kapag practice, seryoso kami," added Fabiosa. "Tsaka si coach Baby, ayaw niyan ’yung mga players na may attitude. That became a big part of our success." 

For Co and the rest of the original members of the Crispa team that entered the league in 1975, it was one way of keeping their status as the star players of the team. By 1980 and 1981, a new wave of Redmanizers entered the fray — Carpio, Romulo Mamaril, Bai Cristobal, Yoyoy Villamin, Padim Israel, and Mon Cruz — but their desire to win remained the same.

The Redmanizers didn't have a perfect 20 in the 1980 All-Filipino conference, but that hardly mattered for Co.

"OK sana ’yun, maganda record, pero wala namang bonus ’yun," added Co in jest.

Turning serious, Co felt happy they won the championship.

"Pero maganda sana, karagdagan ’yun," added Co, referring to the record. "But we still ended up as champions, anyway."

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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