LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – This early, the clash of the titans has begun.
It was just five days ago when the Cong. Eric Go Yap Congressional Cup was launched that most of the 14 teams involved have only one game each finished but four, and now four of the expected shoo-ins for the top five positions are at each other’s throat, literally, when games resume September 21 at the municipal gym here.
And to watch the four try to claim the perfect slate are the province’s VIPs led by the tournament’s namesake, Benguet Rep. Eric Yap and expectedly, with him as “forward”, is his “point guard”, Gov. Melchor Diclas, and the hosts mayor Romeo Salda and vice mayor Roderick Awingan, who act as team managers of La Trinidad Team A and B, respectively.
“I hope it is not an early draw against (La Trinidad) Team A,” said La Trinidad Team B coach Dennis Billanes prayed earlier wherein brothers will play against their brothers from the other team. The older of the Batanes brothers, Norman, plays for Team B, while the younger, Alexander, and stronger, is with Team A, which is the reverse for the Fuchigami siblings, where the older, Alcurt is with the first team, and the younger, Allan, Jr., is with Team B
It will be the younger against the older squads. Youth versus matured players. Former varsity players against the present crop and in the case of Tuba, high school players, who drew Bokod, which parades some of the older varsity players.
“You already know which are the top three teams,” echoed last Saturday by Tuba trainor Jun Rimando, who assists former Baguio Colleges Foundation (University of the Cordilleras) varsity member and former UC and Cordillera Career Development College champion coach Gerry Estranero, at the University of Baguio High School for its basketball program.
In fact they allowed practically the whole UBHS Red Robins under their care to play for Tuba, who the young players call home. Because they are from there.
Rimando was pointing at La Trinidad 1, Bokod and Itogon, who all made their presence felt Saturday afternoon as they romped off with wins expected to be so one sided.
Bokod finished off Kibungan and went home a 55-point victor, the league’s biggest margin. Itogon posted a 24 point victory over Bakun which was limited to only two points in the first quarter. Two of its players went on to score triple doubles with one a monstrous 31 points and an even gargantuan 20 rebounds. The result was a 104-60 victory over the overmatched Bakun Five.
And not to be outdone, La Trinidad A with the home crowd at their back eked a 96-80 win over Kabayan despite a Steph Curry like performance from one of the latter team’s sniper – Kyle Aldrich Naisod – who connected 10 of his shots from deep for a tournament high of 32 points.
It was practically an Armando Pollantes show as the league’s tallest player pranced his way around the court – swatting balls from a driving opponent leading to his own steal there, or making a put back on a missed lay-up here – resulting to his monstrous 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists aside from the two steals and three blocks.
The young Tuba squad did not disappoint on their debut Sunday when they willed a narrow three point lead at the end of the third quarter into a 64-41 win.
Not to be outdone, the youthful second team from the Valley easily routed Kapangan, 97-62, despite the heroics of former CCDC big man and coach Fenrie Atinyao, a 20-10-10, performance.
The next game, their seniors blew Sablan 102-64 and which was joined by Itogon at the top of the leaderboard with a perfect 2-0 (win-loss) slate after a 98-61 no sweater against Kibungan.
“LT2 will fight it out, although we know that they (LT1) are the stronger team,” said Billanes.
Trinidad 1 wants it three in a row, while their younger counterparts want it two straight and hopefully punch their way into the post elimination early November.
Backed by Hype-Pro Energy Drink, the event is a single round robin which is expected to end by the last week of November. Fourteen teams are playing of which two are from the capital town.
Yap said that he hopes to form a Benguet squad from the cream of the crop or the Mythical Team in the future.
“We will not look elsewhere but we will tap local talents to play in the pro-league (Maharlika Professional Basketball League),” vowed Yap during his speech before the ceremonial tip off that officially started games last Saturday.
Yap will be in Baguio to deliver financial assistance to those affected during the wrath of supertyphoon Egay late August. Pigeon Lobien