TWO matches involving three champion teams from the country’s premier leagues highlight the start of the First Philippine Secondary Schools Basketball Championship (PSSBC) at The Arena in San Juan.
In what could be a perfect opening to the country's biggest high school tournament, newly-crowned UAAP champion Far Eastern University-Diliman takes on reigning Metro Manila Tiong Lian Basketball Association (MMTLBA) titlist Chiang Kai Shek College at 9:30 a.m.
San Beda, fresh from winning its fourth straight title and 20th NCAA championship overall, collides with MMTLBA runner-up Hope Christian High School at 10:45 a.m. with the Red Cubs out to extend their streak in the 10-team tournament after sweeping San Sebastian in their best-of-three title series.
The next two games of the heavy four-game schedule will be determined through drawing of lots with deposed UAAP champion National University and SSC also expected to see action in the tournament sponsored by Ironcon Builders, Jumbo Plastic Linoleum, Wrangler, Dickies Underwear, MEC Networks, Blackwater Sports, Hapee Toothpaste, and Welcoat.
Also taking part in the tournament are multi-titled Xavier School, Ateneo, University of Santo Tomas, Letran.
Comprising Group A of the single-round elims are FEU, SSC, Ateneo, Chiang Kai Shek College and Xavier School while San Beda, NU, UST, Letran and Hope Christian make up Group B.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) Executive Director Sonny Barrios and well-known sports analyst-columnist Quinito Henson have been invited to be the motivational speakers in the opening ceremony that starts at 8 a.m.
The National University Pep Squad, which finished third in the recent UAAP cheer-dance contest, will provide entertainment. A drum line presentation by the Letran band will usher the parade of teams with their respective muses.
League chairman Dr. Cecilio Pedro of Hapee will deliver the opening remarks while vice chairman Dioceldo Sy will declare the cagefest open.
Leading FEU's bid will be UAAP MVP Jerie Pingoy, Finals MVP Roger Domingo, Joshua Aguilon and Jeson Delfinado. The team of coach Mike Oliver is seeking its third title this year after also winning the Fil-Chinese Basketball League crown.
The 5-foot-9 Pingoy dazzled in the Baby Tamaraws' 113-109 triple overtime win over NU in the UAAP title game by unloading 32 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, and three steals while Domingo hit a couple of threes in the third extra session to seal the school's first title in 25 years.
San Beda will be bannered by Finals MVP Jayvee Mocon and former National Youth players Arvie Tolentino and Joshua Caracut. Mocon averaged 12.5 points and 14.0 rebounds in the Finals, earning him praises from coach Britt Reroma who dubbed him as a "game-changer."