LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Bokod, Itogon and La Trinidad I are among the early favorites when the first Cong. Eric Go Yap Congressional Cup tips off next month.
Bokod, on paper, is the strongest with six former college varsity teams in its line-up, three of them former champions.
Brothers June Rey and John Ric Buenaventura will be two of the players to watch for Bokod with the former helping University of the Cordilleras win the 2016 crown and was named the most valuable player that season.
The big man 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 the La Trinidad school 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 season of the Baguio Benguet Educational Athletic League.
Included in the mix is former SLU bigman Ramil Alimba who played for Saint Louis University in 2008 who went against Gabino and the Admirals only to lose it on a 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.
Cuillan will, however, miss much of the early parts of the tournament with four of his right hand’s fingers still stitched due to an accident during typhoon Egay’s rampage when the now policeman helped in the town’s rescue missions.
“It is one of the teams we will be watching,” said La Trinidad team B co-coach Dennis Billanes when they submitted the capital towns two teams where players were also measured for their uniform provided by the congressman.
“Bokod has a pretty strong line-up,” said the Trinidad mayor’s office staffer while not discounting Itogon, which has former UC big man Chad Villanueva, who is now a cop in said town.
Trinidad’s first team will lean on present CCDC coach Manual Felix, Jr., who played alongside Cuillan in the latter part of 2010s. The big man, who is a dependable ball carrier, will be joined by former Baguio College of Technology big man 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 Congressional Cup is expected to start early September with the single round robin eliminations expected to be finished by the end of October.
The finals is projected to be finished by the third week of November with the awards during the celebration of the Adivay or Benguet Day.