DEFENDING champion University of Baguio (UB) Cardinals open their campaign October 6 as the Baguio-Benguet Educational Athletic League officially kicks off Friday, October 4, with Cordillera Career Development College as host.

The 33rd season opened with a simple program at the CCDC Admirals gym with Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas (SBP)-Cordillera regional director and SunStar Baguio president Peter Rey Bautista Jr. gracing the occasion together with Benguet officials.

The Cardinals will start their title retention bid against Pines City College Warriors, 10:30 a.m. Sunday, at the CCDC gym before taking on the Baguio College of Technology Atoms at 2:30 p.m., October 12, at UC gym.

Nine from the championship squad, which swept Saint Louis University Navigators in the finals last year, will return to action including Renzae Cosme.

Returning for the Cardinals is team captain Maenard Razo together with standouts Ivan Atijera, Franz Cabrera, Angelo Cambaliza, Claude Leymark Camit, Efren dela Cruz, Adrien Virgilio Imson, Vince Aaron Sibbaluca, and Aldriane Puzon.

With an almost complete lineup, CCDC athletic director Eduardo Luareano mused that the Cardinals remain the favorite in tournament which will be a single round robin format with the top four finishers competing in the semis where the top two team enjoys a twice to beat advantage.

Kings College of the Philippines, which took a leave of absence in this year's BBEAL and University of the Philippines-Baguio, will not see action in men's basketball.

UB and SLU will have their rematch October 26 at the UB gym which starts at 4:00 p.m.

Laureano added that accredited referees from SBP will officiate the games.

Aside from the centerpiece basketball tournament, the 33rd BBEAL will have eight other sports event to be played in the first semester.

Archery, badminton, baseball, chess, sepak takraw, swimming, table tennis, and wushu will also be played in the first semester while 10 other sports will see action in the second phase of the competition including the men's and women's volleyball. (Roderick Osis)