COMPLETING a grand slam is already a difficult feat in itself. What more if you pull it off on your first season in the league.
That’s exactly what Stag Pale Pilsen achieved in the 1995-1996 season of the Philippine Basketball League (PBL), completing a sweep of all three conferences of the amateur league in a smashing debut.
Of course, winning the grand slam in the PBL is different from doing a similar feat in the PBA, but that feat nevertheless gave the Asia Brewery franchise the distinction of being one of the best amateur teams in history.
Coached by Alfrancis Chua, the Pale Pilseners put together a deep, talented lineup from the get go in the Reinforced Cup by acquiring eventual Ginebra players Marlou Aquino and Bal David from the collegiate ranks with Antoine Joubert as import.
The Pale Pilseners defeated Red Bull in four out of the five games of the series including a 110-96 win in the clincher, becoming the third team after Triple V and Nikon to capture the crown right on the first try.
Joubert, the best import of the conference, scored 36 points with Aquino ending his MVP campaign by scoring 22 points. Randy Alcantara, Paul Du and Derrick Bughao also had valuable contributions in the finals clincher.
Stag won its second crown of the season during the All-Filipino Cup when the Pale Pilseners, with La Salle stars Mark Telan and Jason Webb bolstering an already formidable squad, swept Casino Rubbing Alcohol in the finals.
There were bumps along the way as the Pale Pilseners went for the season sweep, suffering losses to Red Bull and Casino during the quarterfinal round. But they got their act together with a sweep of Casino in the best-of-three semifinals.
A grueling championship series saw the games played every day at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum beginning January 7, 1996 with Stag taking on Jack Santiago, Henry Fernandez, Danny Ildefonso and the rest of Red Bull.
The Pilseners drew first blood with a 105-102 win with Aquino tallying 24 points, David 17, and Alcantara chipping in 17. Jason Webb, however, sealed the victory with a crucial steal late in the game, according to the game account of The Standard.
Aquino, Alcantara, and Ruben Dela Rosa caught fire in Game Two, combining for 68 points in Stag’s 93-86 win. The Pale Pilseners played with just seven men but it hardly mattered in taking a 2-0 finals lead.
Aquino then finished his amateur career with a bang by scoring 41 points in Game Three, lifting the Pale Pilseners to a 102-92 victory over Red Bull to complete the grand slam on January 10, 1996. After the game, Aquino got his third MVP of the season.
“We simply had too much class for them,” said Chua, who at 28 became a grand slam coach in the PBL, as quoted by The Standard.
Stag’s championship run in the 1995 season was only the start for the Asia Brewery franchise, which won another title as the Pale Pilseners in the 1996 Danny Floro Cup, and three straight crowns as Tanduay in the next three conferences before moving up to the PBA in 1999.