EVEN without longtime contenders University of the Visayas and Sacred Heart-Ateneo de Cebu, the Visayas remains a force to reckon with in the 2019 Chooks-to-Go SM NBTC League National Finals.
Emerging power Southwestern University-PHINMA took UV's place as champion in this year's NBTC Cebu after downing University of San Jose-Recoletos. As finalists, the Baby Cobras and the Baby Jaguars booked their place in this year's national championship for high school players.
SWU's run to the title was fronted by heady lefty Kent Sanchez and speedster Kendall Limana while USJ-R's strong showing was led by do-it-all Elmer Echavez.
The Baby Cobras and the Baby Jaguars are hoping to follow in the footsteps of SHS-Ateneo which became the first non-Luzon NBTC champion in 2015.
They will be joined as Visayas representatives by Iloilo's Sta. Clarita International School, Bacolod's STI-West Negros University, Dumaguetue's St. Louis School of Don Bosco, and Eastern Samar's Dolores National High School in the week-long showcase of the most promising young talent in the country also presented by TV5 Plus and Lighthouse Events.
The Visayas qualifiers battle 26 other teams in the annual NBTC League Nationals from March 18 to 24 at the MOA Arena.
The semis, finals and the All-Star Game of the tournament sponsored by Chooks-to-Go, Darlington-Exped Socks, EPSON, Huawei, Freego, Purefoods, Gatorade, Go for Gold, SM and Molten will be aired live on ESPN5.
Last year, National U was crowned king of Division 1 while La Salle Lipa ruled Division 2.
VISAYAS QUALIFIERS: Sta. Clarita International School (Region VI-A), STI-West Negros University (Region VI-B), St. Louis School of Don Bosco (Region VII), Dolores National High School (Region VIII), SWU (NBTC Cebu champion), USJ-Recoletos (NBTC Cebu runner-up).