📅31 October 2013
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By Robert Balajadia


Head coach Eddie Pelkey giving instructions to the guards. (GSPN photo)

The Academy Cougars basketball team are building a dynasty. The two-time champs in the past two seasons are in great position to make a serious run at their third straight title behind veteran coach Eddie Pelkey, Jimmy Yi, and Tony Thompson, who know a thing or two about winning.

Pelkey is taking over the team as head coach from Jocelyn Pardilla, but Pelkey has been around helping the girls practice in each of their championships, so not much has been lost in regards to communication and understanding with coach.

“We’re not progressing as quick as I would like to, volleyball has gotten in the way of that process. The fortunate thing is that we’ve had a lot of these girls in the program so there is not a lot of reteaching that has to go on. We’re about a week away from where we want to be this far into the season,” stated Pelkey.

The team has lost last years MVP Kara Duenas and point guard Rebecca Rupley to graduation, but the veteran senior leadership of Alina Bonto and Gemilie Ilao still make the Cougars one of, if not, the league’s most dangerous team.


Coach Jimmy Yi working on the girls post-up game. (GSPN photo)

With the Cougars producing last years MVP, Bonto does not feel the pressure of producing another MVP this year,”I don’t feel as an individual leader but everyone on the team has that leadership role. I don’t really care for the individual accolades, as long as we work together as a team then it will come.”

“All 14 girls have to potential to be an MVP. We don’t run a system that specifically identifies one player. We run a system that gives every player on the court an opportunity to make a decision that’s in the best interest of the team and execute. There is a lot of potential on the team and I think one of them can do that, but the goal is not become and MVP but to win a championship,” confirmed coach Pelkey.

“We’ve been working a lot on chemistry and we’ve been fine tuning the kinks. Coach Pelkey is a good coach and he gives really good instructions. It’s more instructive and we just need to learn to apply what he’s teaching us to our game. Working with all the new pieces we have will make us better because having their skill and height will allow us to do more things,” stated Ilao.

New Editions, Old Traditions


Gemilie Ilao works on her off-ball movement during the play. (GSPN photo)

Newcomers like sophomore Kali Benavente from the St. John’s Knights and senior Erin Wong, who hasn’t played on the team since her sophomore year, give the Cougars an added dimension of height and ball handling that will help them in the long run.

Pressure will be a recurring theme most of these girls will be faced with, but some players on the team feel a deeper sense of pressure based on the success of their family.

Ilao is the younger sibling of former Cougar’s volleyball and basketball player Ivee Ilao and Friars’ basketball and volleyball player John Ilao.

“I always have expectations and my siblings have set the bar high and I always have to beat it, but right now I’m winning so it’s okay!” Ilao said with smiles.

Gemilie helped her team capture a volleyball championship earlier this season and has a great shot at making it three straight championships for basketball.

The former stars of the St. John’s Knights in Benavente and Destiny Castro have split up after leading their Knights to the finals against the Cougars last season.

When asked if the team has been welcoming after being considered rivals last season, Benevante responded with, “The girls are fine, we’re all friends. I’ve played with [Cougars] longer than I have with St. John’s. I have to play my best and just play my role.”

Speaking of Castro, she has moved on to ND where she will play under coach Bob Pelkey, coach Eddie Pelkey’s father.

“It means absolutely nothing who’s coaching at what other school that is not Academy. My job is to prepare this team to the best of our ability to give them an opportunity to win a basketball game. Who is standing on what sideline for whatever school is the least of my worries right now,” firmly stated Pelkey.

“Maybe at the end of the season, when all is said and done, we might get together and talk about it, but at this point we haven’t talked about it. It’s something special I think we’ll share, but it’s something we’ll share when the season is done. We both have a job to do and we’re both just focused on doing that,” Pelkey continued.

Building College Rep


Alina Bonto has a greater incentive this season by hoping to impress college coaches and scouts. (GSPN photo)

Bonto will be a focal point of the Cougars championship run, but she is also thinking bigger picture. Bonto plans to venture off into the NCAA and continue to play the sport she loves at the collegiate level. She and her family have been taking the necessary steps into building her college portfolio.

“My Dad has been recording my games and putting them together. He’s contacted a few coaches and a few coaches have contacted him because he helped create a sports profile/website for me,” stated Bonto.

Reflecting on her high school sports career, Bonto gives advice for those who strive to play sports in college as well saying, “I never really regret anything but the one thing I wish I could’ve done is to practice more and improve in some areas like my dribbling and shooting skills. I suggest that you practice, practice, practice!”

The Cougars are scheduled to play the Guam High Panthers Friday night to officially begin their run at a third straight championship.



Coach Jimmy and Tony Thompson discussing how the girls should open up when calling for the ball in the post. (GSPN photo)


Newcomer Erin Wong learning proper post technique. (GSPN photo)


Newcomer Kali Benavente runs the floor during on of the early drills. (GSPN photo)


Coach Thompson and coach Jimmy demonstrate post moves and technique. (GSPN photo)

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