Two Cebu fives in RP Battle of Champions
Basketball Association of the Philippines chairman Michel Lhuillier is backing at least two top teams from Cebu when the National Battle of Champions unwraps from May 14 to 30.
Lhuillier was elated that the Federation of School Sports Associations of the Philippines (Fessap) is reviving the once-prestigious tournament, and through BAP-Central Visayas vice president Raul "Yayoy" Alcoseba said he’s keen on supporting the top Visayan squads.
"This is a big development," said BAP president Joey Lina, as he extended his gratitude to Lhuillier’s vow of support.
"Cebu has been a distinguished farm of talented future superstars, and this will give us a bigger pool of talents for the RP Team once the FIBA [International Basketball Federation] lifts its suspension on the Philippines."
Tisha Abundo, chairman of the BAP commission for school league organizations and president of the National Capital Region Athletics Association, also welcomed the development, saying the inclusion of the Cebu teams will make the event more exciting.
"I thank BAP chairman Lhuillier and BAP president Joey Lina for supporting this endeavor. Cebu’s participation in the event will surely give a big challenge to Metro Manila-based schools, and that makes the National Battle of Champions a wide open chase for the crown," said Abundo.
The champion team will have the privilege of representing the Philippines in the Thailand Prince Cup, tentatively scheduled in October.
The BAP has yet to decide who will host the event. The Yñares Gym in Antipolo City, through Gov. Casimiro Yñares Jr. of Rizal; San Juan, through Mayor JV Ejercito; and the city of Manila, through Manila Sports Council chairman Ali Atienza are considered priority host venues for the major amateur cagefest.
The tournament calls for four groups of five teams battling each other in an inter-intra format. The top two teams of each division will move into the crossover quarterfinals. The top teams of each quarterfinal group then advance to the crossover semifinals.
The revival of the National Battle of Champions will be the pilot project of Fessap, which was established in 1999 and now the umbrella organization of school-based leagues like the NCRAA, the Universities and Colleges Athletic Association, Colleges Universities Sports Association, the National Athletic Association of Schools and Universities Association, the States Colleges and Universities Athletic Association, the Leyte Amateur Athletic Association and the Philippine Schools and Universities Athletic Association.
Twenty teams are initially eyed to participate as each of the 10-member leagues of Fessap will be allowed to field in two teams. The other competing leagues are USCAA, Bacolod-based Nopcea under the helm of Anthony Agustin of West Negros College, Prisaa represented by Rizal Province and the Southern Tagalog Athletic Association.
Semifinal winners will then dispute the crown in a sudden-death championship match, while the semis losers face off for third place.