Coronation Cup, the annual basketball tournament, which hosted the most number of teams in the country started with 22 fewer at the swimming pool complex in Thimphu yesterday.

Considered one of the most coveted basketball tournaments, the competition tipped-off with about 60 percent less men teams. The number of women teams has also declined.

The previous edition of the tournament was organised between June and August. However, the Bhutan Basketball Federation began the tournament early as it received funds from Bhutan Olympic Committee this year.

BBF’s general secretary Sonam Tobgay said the young and student teams that take part in the tournament annually could not participate this year.

The number of teams this time is least in the last three years. The annual championship saw the same number of men’s team take part in 2015 after its venue was shifted to the semi-indoor court of Thimphu Primary School.

The championship saw the highest number of teams last year with 46 teams and played 28 teams in 2016.

The tournament this year is expected to bring in new skills and fairness with no national players playing in the championship. “It’s a good chance for the new players to show skills and a platform for them to step up,” said the BBF president Jigme Namgyal.

He said that the federation plans to change the championships’ format into a professional one. “The federation is working towards making the tournament gender balanced to enhance women’s participation.”

Meanwhile, both men and women defending champions lost their first matches this time.

Pazaaps thrashed defending champion, Thimphu Magics 73-53. Pazaaps maintained their lead until the final whistle.

In the second match, Wizards beat Wolf Pack by half basket.  The match ended 56-55 in favour of the champions of recently concluded A-league.

Wolf Pack led the match with a half basket in the first quarter and extended the lead by three baskets in the second quarter. The quarter ended 20-27 in favor of Wolf Pack. Wizards equalised the score 40-40 by the end of the third quarter and swiftly edged over Wolf Pack in the final quarter.

Opening the match in women’s category, team Majas defeated the defending champions, Taras 55-34 yesterday.

The third match was played between Takins and team Health. The former that played A-league recently defeated Health 59-51.