The Filipino community is wild about basketball and it's no different here in Cochrane.

Locally, they've enjoyed friendly but competitive games over the years and now they're part of the thriving Pinoy Basketball Airdrie league.

The Cochrane Ballers recently won their very first game in the Pinoy league against Istorbo from Chestermere, 65-58, and team captain Michael Bautista hopes it will be the first of many victories.

"We are very eager to win the championship," said Bautista.

Cochrane players aren't new to the league and several were part of the DQ championship team last year before entering as the Ballers.

"But this year we decided to book our team as Cochrane so now we have our own Cochrane team," says Bautista.

There are about 15 players on the team, predominantly Cochranites, and they practice here weekly before travelling to Airdrie for weekend games at the Airdrie Koinonia Christian School.

Each team plays all seven other teams once before playoffs start and the final is a best-of-three series.

The playoffs are when the action heats up, says league commissioner Rodel Jimenez, and there's many added features.

"Our playoffs include contests, like three-point shooting, and there's giveaways," he explains, "And we have an all-star game with trophies and all."

While it's too early to say who will make the all-star teams, he predicts it will include Cochrane players.

"I'm pretty sure there's going to be some of your guys on the all-star team. They have a solid team again this year, so I expect to see them at the all-star game."

The Airdrie league was founded in 2015 by a group of family and friends who realized there was a growing interest in their Facebook group on Filipino basketball news and events.

"One of the guys said we're up to 90 guys in this Facebook group, why don't we start a league?" recalls Jimenez. "I always thought about doing something like that--basketball has always been my passion. So within a few months we had our first season up and running. and we had our first game in September 2015.

Jimenez says basketball is by far the number one sport in the Phillipines.

"I was born and raised in Winnipeg, actually, but I think it's in our DNA because I ended up playing basketball for years and loved it. In the Phillipines you're going to be watching either NBA basketball or Manny Pacquiao, the boxer."

"If you ever head to the Phillipines you will literally see basketball courts anyway... anyway."

Jimenez says the league hopes to foster the sport with youth and hold development camps in the future.

"We believe we can grow to a point where we can help all of the kids coming up, grass roots, and help them develop their skills."

The Ballers next game is on Apr. 30 against Barrio, who also won their opening game of the season.








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