The basketball court near Diamond Willow Middle School was full of shouts and cheers last weekend for the third Invitational Summer Basketball League kick-off.
Hosted by the a Christian organization called Christ’s Corridor, Filipino families and friends around central Alberta come to Ponoka to be part of the 10-week basketball series.
The majority of competitors are from the Philippines, explained co-organizer Jerry Nepomucemo. “It’s a means of reaching out to the community.”
He says basketball is a popular sport in the Philippines and it gives people a chance to come together over the summer months. Every Saturday and Sunday starting at 6 p.m. registered teams will vie for top spot.
Excitement was high and the competition was fierce over the weekend while families and friends cheered on their favourite players. Organizers take the event seriously, which could be seen in the play-by-play commentary. There were also two referees and a ceremonial tip-off to start the series.
Another reason the tournament is hosted is so Filipinos can come together and meet other folks from the Philippines, explained co-organizer Ramil Ayuno. “It’s a family affair. It shows how we Filipinos love basketball.”
Competitors come from Red Deer, Lacombe, Blackfalds, Camrose and Ponoka and this year, basketball players from Ponoka Secondary Campus and St. Augustine Catholic School asked to join in.
In an effort to ensure an even challenge, Ayuno says they integrated high school athletes into other teams. Commentators had fun with the additional players and called them “imports,” similar to those found in the Philippine Basketball Association, which finds many non-Filipino players drafted into the association.
Nepomucemo hopes they can host an indoor league next summer to continue games in case of inclement weather. However, last weekend brought decent weather with no rain during game times.