CEBU CITY – With the talent gap between the different regions steadily narrowing down, a down-the-wire finish for both the Passerelle and Small Basketeers of the Philippines (SBP) divisions is expected when the national finals of the MILO BEST basketball tournament unwraps today at the Magis Eagles Arena inside the SHS-Ateneo de Cebu campus in Canduman, Mandaue City.
“Mas competitive na ang mga teams from the different regions so sa tingin ko walang makaka-straight this year,” said BEST founder and chairman Nic Jorge, the man who has overseen the country’s pre-eminent basketball clinic for 36 years. He has also been at the helm of the Milo BEST Tournament for 29 years.
“Unlike before, hindi na magiging lopsided ang mga games. The competition now is very tough,” Jorge added during the tournament’s press conference held on Friday.
Jorge was joined by different BEST Center regional coordinators led by NCR’s Ompong Segura, Ronnie Degala of Roxas City, Chow Vega of Cagayan de Oro, and Russell Go of Luzon.
The Passerelle crown will be disputed by reigning champion Chiang Kai Shek, the Holy Angel University of Luzon and Holy Child College of Davao of Mindanao, and Visayas’ representative, the University of the Visayas.
The SBP title on the other hand, will be a toss-up between Xavier School, Berkeley School of Baguio, Bukidnon Faith Christian School Inc., and Ateneo de Iloilo.
Segura believes the NCR teams have a great chance of winning the titles owing to their exposure to what he believes to be the ‘top competition’ in the region.
“There are a lot of major schools participating in our region so I think the NCR teams have a great chance of winning the nationals,” said Segura.
But Vega believes the Mindanao teams cannot be taken lightly especially after the breakthrough of Bukidnon Faith Christian School in the SBP class.
“Cagayan de Oro has not beaten the Davao teams in so long so nag-level up na rin kami,” said Vega.
Ditto for Regala who spoiled a Cebu sweep in the Visayas regionals after Ateneo de Iloilo upset University of San Carlos in the SBP division.
“We recognize the fact that we are miles away from the Cebu teams but we are improving our basketball skills and someday, you never know, baka di lang SBP team ng USC ang matatalo namin,” said Regala.
The classification phase of the tournament will see the teams face off against one another in a single round-robin with the top two finishers battling it out for the much-coveted crown on Sunday afternoon.