Look back: UST vs FEU UAAP Finals in 1979 and 1980
University of Santo Tomas transformed its basketball gym into the Thomasian Alumni Center less than two years ago, but memories of championships and heartbreaks are as fresh as ever.
Before UST won 3 straight UAAP championships from 1993 to 1995, it endured two bittersweet years in the late 1970s. Wednesday’s, November 25 UAAP Season 78 cage finals between UST and FEU brought back the 1979 championship and in a lesser light, the 1980 title showdown.
UST lost in both matches, despite the presence of the crafty mentor Rogelio Serafico, the nephew of Herminio Silva, the great tactician who steered the Philippines to third place in the 1954 world championship.
“In my years as a player and coach, I don’t remember FEU losing to UST,” said former FEU mentor Arturo Valenzona in a phone interview with Rappler. “But this match on Wednesday is evenly matched.”
In both matches, Serafico fell short of redeeming himself after he mistakenly joined Baby Dalupan in a mental tug-of-war in the 1968 championship. Dalupan refused to send his team to the second half and Serafico did not send his players out, choosing to wait for the UE mentor’s move. The final was not played and UST and UE shared the title.
It was UST’s last championship shot until the 1979 UAAP wars. League rules then said a team can win the UAAP title outright if it sweeps the 12-team double-round schedule. FEU lost twice and ended the eliminations with a 10-2 slate.
Both coaches were studies in contrasts. Serafico, with his mustache and extroverted ways, exuded confidence. He built UST to a contender with a two-year program that showcased the deadly trio of Edmund Yee, Frank Natividad, and Ed Cordero, along with their dangerous sixth man Francisco Maristela.
Valenzona, one of Yco’s famed backcourt men, ended Dalupan’s bid for an 8th straight UAAP title in 1972, his first year of coaching FEU. He was quiet, reserving his tirades inside the locker room.
UST qualified for a showdown with FEU by beating UE in a playoff, 114-104. Both teams had 9-3 slates. The Glowing Goldies struck with the Yee-Natividad-Cordero troika, which combined for 28 points in an 8-minute span in the second half to wipe out a 60-45 deficit. Yee, now a vice president for Ford Motors Philippines, led UST, scoring 34 points as he played nearly the whole game.
FEU remained formidable as it had a 6-foot-4 and a half American, Anthony Williams, a medical technology student; seniors Arturo Cristobal and Danilo Manalastas; and rookie gunner Jojo Valle.
Williams, a beefy ex-soldier muscled his way for easy baskets, including an occasional foul. “He was not that shifty but he was a strong leaper. His inside game helped us a lot,” added Valenzona.
Valle, in a separate interview, said: "Williams was a forward and our center was Guillermo Valerio. But his presence helped us a lot. I can say he is a lot better than some of the foreigners playing in the college league.”
But fate intervened for the luckless Serafico. UST’s Varsitarian weekly reported that scoring machine Cordero would not play the October 17 match due to flu. With UST needing to beat FEU twice to win the title, the Glowing Goldies’ title bid was doomed. The Tams slaughtered the Goldies, 100-89, after leading by 17 at the half.
Williams towed FEU to its first title since 1976, with 35 points followed by Manalastas’ 17 and Cristobal’s 15. The jump-shooting Natividad had 38 and Yee 25, but got little support. Yee, who could shoot or drive to the basket, was limited to 7 points in the first half. The match, reported Al Mendoza of Bulletin Today, became a “virtual workout.”
If not for Williams’ antics, “the match would have ended with only the school bands as spectators,” added Mendoza.
FEU won the UAAP championship two more times, including a bizarre clash against UST in 1980.
“Our team had many new players moving up and UST was still a good team with Cordero and Maristela,” said Valle.
Beefy guard Mon Amador, who played for the volleyball team in the mornings, came into his own while youthful Glenn Capacio began his first strides to fame.
But FEU strode to an 11-0 record, needing to beat UST, which was tied with UP at 7-4 at the end of the second round, to retain its title. The season was mixed for Serafico, but he had a chance for an upset and send the series to a title showdown.
Serafico ordered his big men, led by center Cesar Calayag, to double-team Williams. He would be backed by veteran Louie Cu and freshman Raymond Fran. He made his team practice a play where they would move the ball around to free a shooter. The day before the September 28 match, Serafico told this writer, then a reporter for Sports World Magazine: "We are ready. My big men will wear out Williams and we have a plan ready."
It looked like FEU was turning it into a rout as it led, 34-21, in the first half. UST, tightening its defenses, rallied to a 62-all tie from the hot hands of Cordero and Maristela. UST grabbed the lead, 69-68, before Williams and Valle showed FEU ahead, 72-69. Cu cut the gap to 72-71. After Mar Cruz committed an error with 34 seconds left, Serafico called for time.
Now Serafico had time to put his plan to action which would banish the ghosts of 1968, and the nightmare of 1979. UST would have another chance to fight for the title.
“But as precious seconds ticked and as time moved nearer the 30-second mark, the crowd stood, goading the Goldies to make an attempt,” wrote Ding Marcelo of the Bulletin Today. Edgar Bilasano dribbled away the clock but his teammates failed to move. “We were surprised. No UST player moved. Hindi sila makakilos (They couldn't move),” said Valle.
The Goldies were slapped with a 30-second violation and with 4 seconds left, FEU literally hung on to the ball to keep their title, 72-71. Williams had 32, Amador 18, Valle 16. Cordero fired 20, and Maristela 12, the only Goldies in double figures. Serafico retired from coaching. – Rappler.com