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PCCL in Cebu

BLEACHER TALK - Rico S. Navarro (The Freeman) - November 9, 2014 - 12:00am

Don’t look now but for the first time in a long time, the country’s top college basketball teams are coming to town. And it’s certainly worth the wait. It’s Manila versus Cebu once again for college basketball supremacy. So who’s coming to town? UAAP champion National University, NCAA champion San Beda College, UAAP runner-up Far Eastern University and NCAA runner-up Arellano University head the cast of the Elite Eight of the Philippine Collegiate Champions’ League  2014. While Manila may have the best teams, Cebu won’t be left out of the action as CESAFI 2014 champion Southwestern University, runner-up University of San Carlos  and University of the Visayas are also part of the penultimate phase of the PCCL’s annual tournament that seeks to determine a champion of champions from among the country’s best teams. The eighth spot is up for grabs at the Luzon-Metro Manila qualifiers with De La Salle University  favored to make it. The Elite Eight games kick off on Thursday, November 13 at the Cebu Coliseum, and will run until Monday, November 17.

The visit of the PCCL is something that will be most welcome in basketball-mad Cebu. It’s been awhile since the top two teams of both the UAAP and NCAA are coming to Cebu for a tournament and not just for an exhibition game or a team bonding tour or visit. All teams are well-rested after winning their respective leagues, and their players should be healthy and clear of injuries for the games. Quite expectedly, they’re all favored to make it to the finals, unless a Cebu teams decides to spoil the party in the same way that SWU crashed into the PCCL championship series last year against DLSU. While Cebuanos were used to watching the Manila teams on TV, we finally get to see them up close, albeit on a not-so-attractive floor when compared to the MOA Arena or Smart Araneta Coliseum. But we’ll take it as it is. I just hope all teams in game shape after taking a long break; with some players already moving on and playing in the ongoing PBA D-League. The tough part for the Manila teams is how to get back into a playoffs mood/mindset after playing in the grueling UAAP or NCAA games. All teams have reached their peak at their respective championship games, dropped down to zero and have to start all over again. The downside of the PCCL is that it’s not valued as important as a UAAP or NCAA championship. But when the games get going, the Manila teams should be quick to recover and flash the form that made them champions. Case in point was DLSU from last year. They were stunned by SWU at the start of the Final Four, but finally woke up to win it all.

From a competitive standpoint, NU and San Beda are easily pre-tournament favorites to clash in the finals since they topped the UAAP and NCAA, respectively. SWU isn’t guaranteed to make it back to the finals, but with a rare opportunity to play at home, the Cobras can’t be taken lightly. If there’s an edge for the Cebu teams, this would be from the preparation side as the Cebu teams have been practicing as a team since the CESAFI ended. The Manila teams have moved on to other activities. Many of the senior players of the teams are now playing in the ongoing PBA D-League. In fact, NU’s Gelo Alolino, Glenn Khobuntin, and Tristan Perez have teamed up with FEU’s core group of Mike Tolomia, Mac Belo, Anthony Hargrove, Roger Pogoy et. al. in the MJM Builders team in the PBA D-League. Baser Amer of San Beda and his Red Lion teammates also play for Hapee Toothpaste where they also have Arnold Van Opstal of DLSU and Tory Rosario (NU) as teammates. I’m just curious what will happen if a team’s Cebu game is in conflict with their games in the PBA D-League. I guess there’s only one way to find if any of this will have any impact on how they perform this week.

The sidelights of the PCCL will be fun for us as we get to watch products of the Cebu youth segment in different teams. In NU are Revrev Diputado and Dave Yu who once played for the Magis Eagles of Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu. FEU has Roger Pogoy (who gets to play in his former homecourt), Miller Dennison (UV), Reeve Ugsang (UV), and Raymar Jose (CEC). Julius Cadavis (SHS-AdC) plays for Arellano. Rendell Senining (SHS-AdC & USJR) is also part of the NU program while Arnie Padilla (SHS-AdC & USC) plays for FEU’s Team B. My guess is that they’ll all be around for this rare chance to “come home.” Most of them were actually home recently for the semestral break with Yu and Senining even joining the practice sessions of their alma mater SHS-AdC.

So let’s get it on. It may not be the UAAP or NCAA championship series but this is the closest it will get for us Cebuano fans. If we want this to become an annual ritual in Cebu, let’s go out, watch the games and support our favorite teams. Make the Manila teams and organizers feel the warmth of Cebu basketball.

* * *

Time-out: Happy birthday to Bro. Robbie Paraan, S.J.

ANTHONY HARGROVE ARELLANO UNIVERSITY ARNIE PADILLA ARNOLD VAN OPSTAL BASER AMER OF SAN BEDA CEBU D-LEAGUE MANILA ROGER POGOY TEAMS
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