June 21, 2024

Basketball teams from the 13 towns of Benguet are set to go head to head in the First Rep. Eric Go Yap Congressional Cup in September.

Except for La Trinidad that has two teams, each municipality will be represented by a team for the much-awaited tournament with a single-round robin eliminations expected to be finished by October.

Bokod would be the team to lookout for in the inaugural event, coming in with a strong lineup of former college varsity teams, three of them former Baguio-Benguet Education Athletics Association champions.

Leading the charge for Bokod are brothers June Rey and John Ric Buenaventura, with the former helping University of the Cordilleras win the 2016 crown and was named the most valuable player that season.

June Rey is backed by a reliable point guard in his younger brother John Ric, who led UC to another title in 2017.

Rey Gabino hopes to bring back the glory days of the Cordillera Career Development College as he suits up for the team from the home of the Ambuklao Dam.

Gabino was instrumental during the back-to-back wins of CCDC Admirals in 2007 and 2008 where he joined the likes of sweet-shooting Harold Sabado and the high-leaping Aaron Aquino.

The Admirals defeated perennial powerhouse University of Baguio Cardinals in the 2007 BBEAL season.

Included in the mix is former Saint Louis University Na-vigators bigman Ramil Alimba who played for SLU in 2008 who went against Gabino and the Admirals only to lose on game three at the UC gym despite being the top seed after the eliminations.

Two former CCDC players, who played opposite the Buenaventura brothers, are also in the line-up, Darwin Fernandez and Nestor Cuillan, who helped CCDC take first runner-up in 2015.

Itogon, meanwhile, has former UC big man Chad Villa-nueva, who is now a cop in the municipality.

La Trinidad also enlists dependable players with its first team led by present CCDC coach Manual Felix, Jr., who played alongside Cuillan in the latter part of 2010.

Felix, who is a dependable ball carrier, will be joined by former Baguio College of Technology Atoms varsity Armando Pollante and former SLU player Clyde Earle Habon. 

Current CCDC players Neil Ralph Ulep and Will Kean Lee, including former CCDC head coach Kurt Panagan will also beef up the capital town’s squad in the semi-home and away format that will last for at least three months.

Games are expected to be played in all towns except for Bakun, which will need neighbor Kibungan to host their games.

The tournament’s finale is projected by the third week of November in time for the celebration of the Benguet foundation anniversary through the Adivay Festival. – Ofelia C. Empian