’73 squad steals show

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

The Philippine national basketball team that won the 1973 Asian Basketball Confederation (now FIBA Asia) championship didn’t come in full force to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Awards Night at 1 Espalanade last Monday.

Coach Tito Eduque has passed away. Assistant coach Caloy Loyzaga, who is ailing, couldn’t make it. Team manager Dante Silverio was absent. Conditioning coach Juan Cutillas has retired in Spain with wife Tessy. Big Boy Reynoso, Dave Regullano and Tembong Melencio are now playing hoops in heaven. Francis Arnaiz lives in Sacramento with his family and couldn’t fly over. Abet Guidaben resides in New Jersey. Ramon Fernandez, Joy Cleofas and Jimmy Mariano were not around.

Present were Robert Jaworski, Manny Paner, Bogs Adornado and Yoyong Martirez. Melencio was represented by son Richie who has also played for the national team. Joey Campos, who is PBA player Eric Menk’s father-in-law, stood in for Cutillas. Campos is a cousin of Cutillas’ wife.  Arnaiz’ brother Leo came in his place.

Each one had his turn to speak. They were all thrilled to recount what happened in 1973 when the Philippines bowled over South Korea, 90-78, to complete a 10-game sweep of the tournament.  Their common message was it was an honor to wear the national colors and gain glory for the country. Jaworski said the victory qualified the Philippines to play at the FIBA World Championships in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1975.

In his remarks, Martirez even made a pitch for Tim Cone, Jaworski and Alvin Patrimonio to join the Gilas coaching staff. Cone was in the building to receive the Excellence in Basketball award while Patrimonio came to accept the trophy as San Mig Coffee team manager for achieving a Grand Slam in the PBA last season.

The 1973 triumph was the Philippines’ second in FIBA Asia history after 1960. Manila hosted the tournament which split 12 countries into two groups – South Korea, Japan, Iran, Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong in Group A and the Philippines, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Singapore and Pakistan in Group B.

The Philippines went 5-0 in the preliminary round, posting an average winning margin of 46.6. The hapless victims were Pakistan, 133-55, India, 109-73, Indonesia, 108-77, Singapore, 130-49 and Taiwan, 88-81. South Korea also posted a 5-0 mark in Group A with an average winning margin of 44.2.

The top three placers of each group advanced to the championship round. The Philippines got off to a shaky start in the playoffs, beating Iran, 88-80 after leading, 49-43, at the half. Then, it was Japan’s turn to capitulate, 89-68. The win avenged the Philippines’ 93-89 loss to Japan in the 1971 edition. Japan was led by slick-haired forward Masatomo Taniguchi, guard Shegeaki Abe and center Hirofumi Numata. Then, the Philippines crushed Taiwan, 101-64, erupting from a 39-34 edge at the half and blasted India, 110-84.

Finally, it came down to a winner-take-all showdown with unbeaten South Korea. The game was close from the start and the half ended in a tie, 48-all. Melencio, Jaworski and Arnaiz rotated in shackling Korean gunner Shin Dong Pa while Adornado took care of piling up the points. The Philippines cruised to win, 90-78, with Adornado claiming MVP honors.

The Philippines went on to play at the FIBA World Championships the next year. The luck of the draw sent the Philippines to the Group of Death in the preliminary round. In the first game, Jaworski hit 21 points but the Philippines lost to the US, 135-85, with future NBA star and coach John Lucas scoring 30. Argentina dealt the Philippines it second loss, 111-90, despite Adornado’s 23. Spain then trounced the Philippines, 117-85, with Jaworski netting 23 and naturalized player Wayne Brabender exploding for 37.

In the classification round, the Philippines opened with a 101-100 upset of Australia with Adornado scoring 20 and Eddie Palubinskas of Louisiana State University scoring 39. Then came the loss to Mexico, 101-84, as Adornado shot 17 and the defeat to Czechoslovakia, 119-112, with Arnaiz scoring 25 and Kamil Brabenec 29. The Philippines closed out the tournament with an 87-86 decision over the Central African Republic as Adornado netted 22.

The Philippines wound up No. 13 of 14 national teams and Adornado was ranked No. 10 in overall scoring with an 18.0 average. The others in the top 10 scoring ladder included Luther (Ticky) Burden of the US, Yugoslavia’s Dragan Kicanovic, Mexican legend Manuel Raga and Palubinskas so Adornado was in elite company.

Other basketball teams honored at the PSA Awards Night were San Mig Coffee for its PBA Grand Slam last season, the National University Bulldogs for capturing the UAAP men’s seniors title after a 60-year drought, the unbeaten National University Lady Bulldogs for claiming their first-ever UAAP women’s seniors crown via a 16-game sweep, the San Beda Red Cubs for their six-peat and 21st NCAA juniors diadem, the Philippine Marathoners who made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for playing non-stop in a little over 120 hours, the San Beda Red Lions for winning the NCAA men’s seniors plum in a five-peat to bring their overall haul to 19 and the Manila West team of PBA stars KG Canaleta, Rey Guevarra, Terrence Romeo and Aldrech Ramos for topping the 12-team Manila Masters leg of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour and finishing fifth of 12 in the World Tour finals in Sendai, Japan.  

Also receiving awards for basketball were Cone, San Miguel Beer’s JuneMar Fajardo as the PBA MVP, Ateneo’s Kiefer Ravena as the UAAP men’s seniors MVP and the Philippine Collegiate Champions League of chairman Rey Gamboa. The MVP Sports Foundation was recognized as the Sports Patron of the Year for bringing the country back to the FIBA World Championships after a 36-year wait. The Foundation is headed by Manny V. Pangilinan as chairman with Al Panlilio as president, Patrick Gregorio as executive director and Ricky Vargas and Orlando Vea as board members. To all the awardees, congratulations for a job well done!

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