Forty years ago today saw one of the most shocking moments in PBA history when Toyota prevented archrival Crispa from clinching the All-Filipino Conference crown before a packed crowd at the Araneta Coliseum.

The game was significant for two reasons as Toyota not only denied Crispa of completing an unprecedented 20-game sweep of the season’s final conference but also won after team manager Pablo Carlos fired coach Fort Acuna at halftime.

Acuna’s sacking came after benching ace guard Robert Jaworski in the first half of the game Toyota needed to stay alive in the series, prompting Carlos to pull the trigger.

Crispa would go on to finish off Toyota in Game 4 and capture its eighth PBA championship. Acuna later defended his decision, saying that it was a “matter of principle” and even called Jaworski “immature and insecure.”

Acuna died seven months later after an apparent suicide at his home. He was 33.

Below is the game story written by Bert Eljera from the December 12, 1980 issue of Bulletin Today.

Toyota stops Crispa, 97 to 94

20-game sweep goes pffft; Acuna fired midway in game

Toyota sprang back to life at the cost of firing its coach in the middle of the game last night and robbed Crispa of a monumental 20-game sweep with a stunning 97-94 victory that extended the All-Filipino championship series at the Araneta Coliseum.

The leadership crisis that plagued Toyota for some time now broke into the open when Fortunato Acuna was given his walking papers after the first half in a move that as unprecedented as the sweep Crispa was setting its eyes on, adding a new twist to this emotional-filled playoffs.

For some 20,000 fans, it was like watching a gripping drama played on and off the court with actors acting real life roles.

As if suddenly finding a reason to live for, the Tamaraws came clawing back in the final quarter, although it was a long scoreless spell by the Redmanizers that turned the contest around.

Collapsing under the killing pressure, the Redmanizers, who had led by 13 points early in the third quarter, scored only four points in the last five minutes and 20 seconds and then a pair of errors wiped out all their chances.

While the Redmanizers were groping for the basket, Ramon Fernandez, despite being saddled with five fouls, shot 10 of Toyota’s last 12 points, including the clincher — a side jumpshot that gave the Tamaraws a 97-92 lead, 48 seconds left.

Before that basket, Fortunato Co, Jr. committed a passing error and in the last play, Philip Cezar bungled the in bound pass five ticks remaining, sending the Tamaraws into a wild celebration.

“He was fired” was team manager Pablo Carlos, Jr.’s terse reply to questions about Acuna, who stalked out of the coliseum before the start of the third quarter.

Carlos said that he had asked Acuna three times why Robert Jaworski was not being used going into the second quarter.

“His reply angered me,” said Carlos. “He simply said he would not use Jaworski without bothering to explain why. If he had any personal reason, he should have kept it to himself. We have an obligation to the paying public to always play our best and by not using Jaworski, we are cheating them.”

Acuna was unavailable for comment and when Jaworski was asked about the whole thing, he only said: “No comment.”

Carlos said that right after Toyota’s loss to Crispa last Tuesday, the Tamaraws decided to stick out with Acuna for the rest of the tournament after each player was given a chance to air whatever gripes they had against their former teammate.

The firing of Acuna confirmed what had been suspected as a leadership crisis besetting Toyota since last year.

“I’m happy we won but I am a little sad because we broke Crispa’s bid for a 20-game sweep. As a sports fan, I would have loved to see them make it,” said Carlos after the game.

The Redmanizers are still leading the series, two games to one, and they will again try to wrap it up tomorrow in Game 4 of the championship series.

“The pressure was too much for the boys,” said Crispa coach Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan. “They somewhat lost their composure and became overeager with their shots.”

Gilbey’s Gin also extended the best-of-five series for third place with a 131-103 drubbing of Tanduay in the first game.

Wilfredo Generalao overtook San Miguel’s Melchor Ravanes in the battle for the Rookie of the Year award after earning 90 statistical points on 20 points and 13 assists.

The Redmanizers looked like sure winners when they pulled ahead by 11 points, 31-20, early in the second quarter and continued to dominate the game until midway in the third frame.

Jaworski, pulled out from the bench after Acuna left in a huff, welded the Tamaraws ably in the third period as Toyota narrowed the gap to six points, 58-64.

Although the Redmanizers again pulled away by 11, 69-58, the Tams kept up the pressure and crept to within five, 68-73, at the end of the third frame before wresting the lead, 75-73, behind a 7-0 blast starting off the final quarter.

The score was tied twice and the lead changed hands three times before Crispa took a five-point margin, 88-83, on a four-point cluster by Cezar.

But after Alfredo Hubalde drove to maintain the five-point lead, 90-85, 5:20 to go, Crispa’s next basket did not come until three minutes and 14 seconds later on a layup by Cezar. By then Toyota had moved ahead, 95-90, on a 10-0 tear.

The two teams went scoreless for over a minute as King and Co each committed and missed a shot and then Fernandez came through with the insurance basket, 48 seconds left.

Guidaben scored to make it 97-94 but after the Tams were slapped a 25-second violation, Cezar committed that costly error which could have given Crispa a chance to send the game into overtime.

It was Toyota’s first victory over Crispa after five straight losses to their arch rivals and it reduced the Redmanizers’ overall lead in their continuing rivalry to 49-44.

Source: Manila Bulletin (