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Top six looks set; Final Seventh, eighth teams could be decided this week

LET THE GAME BEGIN. Buguias mayor Ruben Tindaan during the ceremonial toss to start the game of his home team and the visiting Bakun squad at the Benguet State University gym last Tuesday. PML

BUGUIAS, Benguet – With Buguias beating Bakun, 95-81, at home soil Tuesday night, the path to the quarterfinals of the Cong. Eric Go Yap Congressional Cup is all open for this vegetable-producing town which serves as a gateway to deep Montanosa.

It was a gallant stand for the IBuguias boys who came home to play before their townspeople who came in droves expecting nothing less than a win. They came shorthanded as they missed big men Alarick Tindaan, due to flu, and Reylan Egsan, who travelled to Manila.

Shortly after the game started and after a brownout threw the gym in total darkness for 20 minutes, they lost another big man with Mark Mamolang twisting his left foot while driving strong to the hoop. Just like that, Buguias played with no biggy. Just like that, Bakun stepped on the gas and was 10 up.

That was when Jumar Pulido took control of the game. That was when Joni Jorgs Balucas opened the floodgate for Buguias to turn the table around and silenced the small pro-Bakun crowd at the back of the opposition’s dugout.

When Jan Earl Agayao left after collecting his fifth and final foul, thanks to a technical foul called on him after taunting the grey shirts after a successful, and rather difficult, drive to the hoop, Buguias started waxing hot.

And so, team Buguias survived in front of their towns mates, their relatives. It was rather a frenetic rally that saw Dignus Menzi, Marc Candido, Virgilio Evangelista, Jr. and Cesar Kitayan, Jr. perplexed not knowing what hit them.

A loss could have been bitter for team Buguias and much more for their towns mates, whom for some of them have not seen for years.

Since most of the orange shirts have gone to the capital and studied there. Joaquin Daysa is said to have not been home in years and the first time he to come back home. The baby-faced point guard is a police intern.

With a 6-4 win-loss card, Buguias joins La Trinidad 2 in a tie at fifth to sixth spots with Bokod and Atok as the remaining opponents left. Assuming that it falls to top-ranked Bokod, which is expected, and beats Atok, Buguias will finish the eliminations at 7-6, which definitely is good for the sixth spot.

A Bakun loss would have complicated the final standing with the visitor needing a win over Kabayan to finish at 5-8 as it is expected to fall to the second La Trinidad team.

Bakun could finish eighth in case Kapangan lost to Mankayan in the ensuing game, which, however, did not happen. It was an 83-80 win over the neighbor team, a winnable one if Mankayan just had the patience in the dying seconds and after overhauling a 15-point first-quarter deficit. It even led by as much as seven early in the fourth quarter only to be steamrolled by a strong Kapangan 10-1 rally that all turned Mankayan’s world upside down.

So the bigger picture is that the race to the last two spots is all settled with Mankayan and Kapangan getting the last two spots but which finishes the better spot is yet to be determined in the next games. Kapangan is yet to face two of the tougher teams, number three Itogon on Saturday and the top-ranked Bokod on Sunday. Forget those two as Kapangan is expected to end the weekend with a 5-7 card. Next Tuesday, the Atok game is crucial with Kapangan needing to win for a 6-7 card.

Mankayan (4-5) needs to win over Tublay tomorrow, 5-5, and definitely will be losing to La Trinidad 1 on Saturday. And the final game on Tuesday, against Kabayan is a must-win for a 6-7 final card. With that scenario, Kapangan takes the seventh spot and Mankayan the eighth.

How about the other teams: Atok at 2-7 is already eliminated. Bakun at 3-8 is gone. Kabayan at 2-7 needs to win its remaining games – Bakun, Tublay, Itogon and Mankayan. If Kabayan is in full force it is expected to breeze past Bakun and Tublay and maybe, just maybe, Mankayan. But Itogon is surely a foregone conclusion. A sweep could force Mankayan out because it was beaten by Kapangan last night, and if it got clobbered by Kabayan on the last day then it would end up dead last in the final reckoning.

A Kabayan loss to any of the teams could end its bid for the last seat.

The game tonight is in Tublay with the host facing Tuba (8-3), a game that should have been played last October 12. With a win over Kibungan, expectedly, Tuba will end the eliminations at 10-3 and fourth spot.

Tublay is currently at 2-8 and is out of the running. Sablan at 3-8 will have Bokod and Trinidad 2 as its last two opponents and will most likely finish at 3-10. Kibungan at 2-8 has Atok, Tuba, and Trinidad 2 as its last assignment and could likely have a good fight against Atok but not the other two. Either it finishes at 3-10 or 2-11 and dead last in the league.

The final standing could be Bokod at number 1, if Buguias will not turn spoiler, Trinidad 1, Itogon, and Tuba for the top four, while the bottom four will have Trinidad 2, Buguias, Kapangan, and Mankayan.

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