by Pigeon Lobien
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The 33rd season of the Baguio-Benguet Educational Athletic League (BBEAL) opened Friday, with the Cordillera Career Development College (CCDC) at the provincial capital town as host.
“We are ready to host the BBEAL,” said CCDC president emeritus James Dean Malaya as his Admirals will lead the 10 school participants minus King’s College of the Philippines (KCP) from the league.
The 79-year-old Malaya remains upbeat this year, boosted by the fact that the school just opened 12 rooms for senior high school at the new building within the CCDC campus in Barangay Buyagan here.
Malaya is hopeful that CCDC men’s basketball team will do good this semester, especially after a win over men’s defending champion University of Baguio during the Cordillera Higher Education Schools Athletic Association (CHESAA) games last August.
“Everything looks good and we are eager to welcome the other school members of the league,” said Malaya as he noted that the opening ceremonies will be at 2 p.m. at the CCDC gym.
Malaya said it will be fanfare during the opening day with basketball games slated at their gym for the next two days.
It will be a single round-robin game in the centerpiece tournament with the Admirals hoping to sail high waters and survive the rigorous two-month competition.
Malaya hopes to duplicate the 2007 and 2008 season success of the Admirals when they took home the titles by beating the Admirals and the Saint Louis University Navigators for the back to back titles.
He said his team is much better prepared now compared to last year when they failed to get past the second round.
With Jun Rimando returning as head tactician after 13 years of absence, the Admirals look pretty tough this year as they attempt to unseat the defending champion Cardinals.
SLU will always remain a threat in the annual competition especially after a resurgent second round last year when the Navigators beat Baguio College of Technology (BCT) “Atoms” twice to make it to the finals.
SLU coach Raymund Austria is also optimistic this year after a Cinderella story last year, coming off the lowest rung in the second round to emerge as a challenger anew, a first in nearly 10 years for the league’s biggest school.
Austria is also fresh from a coach training with the Gilas Pilipinas, a price he got for his spectacular miracle come back last year.
Season 30 and 31 champion University of the Cordilleras hope also to come back following a lackluster round two last year after reigning supreme in bracket A last year.
BCT also hopes to come back after losing big man Armando Pollante last season and with it the championship bid.
The Atoms also hope to emulate the success of the women’s volleyball team which ended UB’s five-year reign in the second most popular BBEAL game, upstaging the basketball squad which has been knocking at heaven’s door the past five seasons.
Other school members of the BBEAL are the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), University of the Philippines (UP), Pines City College (PCC), Baguio Central University (BCU) and Benguet State University (BSU).
Other events this year are chess, table tennis, badminton, archery, and swimming.
Meanwhile, UC starts its quest for the men’s basketball crown it lost last year when the Jaguars face the ever-dangerous PMA on Saturday at the CCDC gym.
UC was one of last year’s favorites as twice defending champion after ruling the second bracket but was swept in the second round and failed to advance to the finals.
A total of nine teams will see action in the league’s centerpiece event led by defending champion UB, said basketball commissioner Danilo Soria, a former UB player and coach fresh from officiating the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Bangkok won by Japan’s Alvark Tokyo.
Soria said it will be a single round-robin competition this time with the elimination round expected to be finished by November 2.
“We will be surely finished by mid-November, prior to the South East Asian Games,” said Soria, who will be called upon by the Samahang Basketbolista ng Pilipinas (SBP) to be part of the officiating group.
Soria helps run SBP operation in the Cordilleras and Northern Luzon. (PNA)