Clash of champions in NCBL
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - August 30, 2015 - 10:00am

Tomorrow, two former champions will dispute the 2015 National Collegiate Basketball League (NCBL) at 10 a.m. at the Technological Institute of the Philippines’ (TIP) Manila campus. Inaugural champion Centro Escolar University (CEU) makes its second appearance in the finals, this time against host TIP, whose Engineers succeeded them as tournament champions in 2013. It has been a remarkable year of growth for a league only in its fourth season, and whose guiding spirit is sportsmanship and camaraderie above all.

“We’re finally seeing some stability in the league membership,” says TIP head coach and NCBL founder Potit de Vera. “More and more school owners, athletic directors and coaches are seeing the vision behind the league, and they’re seeing the effect the change in culture is having on their players and students.”

The NCBL began four years ago with the end in mind of harking back to the origins of amateur sport, wherein it was the manner that one conducted one’s self that mattered most, not the final score. In the last decade or so, there had been an obvious escalation in the acts of violence and number of controversies in college basketball. With the help of Athletes In Action (AIA), de Vera aimed to bring spirituality to the forefront, making sure that coaches didn’t swear, order players to hurt one another, or disrespect the referees and technical officials. Initially, there was some resistance, but gradually, the players and coaches adapted to the system. After the first season, there has been no instances wherein coaches have had to be sanctioned for their behavior.

“When people get used to a certain way of doing things, it’s hard to change,” de Vera explains. “Sometimes, the players themselves are forced to do things they don’t want to do for fear of losing their spots on the roster and as a result, their scholarships. We’re just showing them that it can be done without having to resort to misbehavior. But it wasn’t easy, we had to find people who agreed with us.”

In Friday’s semifinals, TIP escaped Olivarez College, 61-46. The Engineers struggled offensively in the first half, scoring only 16 points. But the hosts kept themselves in the game with aggressive defense. Olivarez started to miss free throws in the second half, allowing TIP to pull away. Hemuel Namocatcat powered the returning finalists with 18 points, including four three-pointers, aided by Jay Gadon who compiled nine points and six rebounds. TH Tumalip had four points and nine rebounds.

In the second game, CEU took an early lead and never looked back against newcomer Philippine Christian University, 70-55. PCU could come no closer than five points early in the fourth quarter. The highly physical game was kept in order by commissioner Matt Calizar and the NABRO referees. Despite the distraction of having had four of his players drafted into the Philippine Basketball Association, coach Egay Macaraya managed to keep his team focused on the task at hand. Pro draftee Rodrigue Ebondo led all scorers with 22 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. CEU has been a consistent winner in collegiate tournaments despite usually having players a year or two younger than their competitors.

With the success of this year’s tournament, NCBL organizers are looking to expand outside of Metro Manila, in the hope of creating a true nationwide college basketball tournament. Schools from other tournaments have already been inquiring about how this alternative league has managed to better mold the youth on their campuses. Spirit behind sport.

* * *

Slots have been filled up fast for the GoPro Camp Alpha: Epic Bohol and Swim Our Islands event starting Sept. 25. The attraction of being trained by the best in triathlon at the Bellevue Resort on Panglao Island has proven irresistible to new competitive multisport athletes. On the first day, coach Andy Leuterio will lead the class in strength training for triathletes and a running clinic. On Day Two, the group will take on a 150-kilometer bike ride through all the scenic sights around Bohol, including the Chocolate Hills. On the last day, he will test the participants with extreme open water swimming called “Swim Our Islands”, a rare open-sea event, for two and four kilometers.

The Bellevue Group, while preparing for this huge event, has also launched its newest hotel, The B Hotel Quezon City along Scout Rallos. The 111-room business hotel has a swimming pool, conference rooms and other amenities for businessmen and travelers in the city, and may soon be the residence of a champion PBA team. The industrial motif lends itself to sports-themed events and activities. Celebrities and media attended the soft opening Wednesday last week.

ACIRC ANDY LEUTERIO ATHLETES IN ACTION B HOTEL QUEZON CITY BELLEVUE GROUP BELLEVUE RESORT CAMP ALPHA CENTRO ESCOLAR UNIVERSITY CHOCOLATE HILLS EGAY MACARAYA EPIC BOHOL AND SWIM OUR ISLANDS
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