Who is excited about basketball at the Senior High level? I don’t know about you, but it seems like every year as long as I can remember, I’ve found myself longing for Mfantsipim and St Augustine’s College to rekindle one of Senior High School basketball great rivalries.
And not only did the introduction of the Sprite Ball Championship make that happen, it also brought to the fore emerging rivalry between schools located in the same town or region.
You can easily talk about Koforidua Secondary Technical School (KSTS) and Pope John’s Seminary as well as Mawuli and Ketasco from the Volta region and you will not be far from right.
The rivalry in the capital has been dominated by Presec-Legon and St Thomas Aquinas, leaving giants Accra Academy to play catch-ups in recent times.
Do you remember the semi-final contest between Keta Senior High and reigning champions Mfantsipim at the Aviation Social Centre last year? Man, that was something! It was a game which got the blood of many of their fans boiling with some questionable refereeing decisions coming into the picture.
It took the individual brilliance of David Akuffo to steal the march off the Volta Regional-based school with just a minute for the buzzer to end the game – hitting home the match winner to the disappointment of the travelling Ketasco fans.
It was that performance that spurred Mfantsipim on to win their third successive title by accounting for KSTS in a fairly balanced contest.
Truth be told the oldest Senior High School in Ghana deserved all the plaudits and the accolade after investing so much in terms of player recruitments and commitment to remain at the top.
Many schools have flattered to deceive while others have left without a trace but the Cape Coast-based school have remained impregnable, walking their talk by dismantling every opponent en route to be crowned champions in 2013.
Another year is here and the debate about Mfantsipim ability to nick another title has started all over again. The major talking point has been directed at the seemingly depleted side following the departure of several of their key players.
It’s becoming an old cycle of ruling them out of contention, yet they enter the championship and end with their heads high above the others. Is it another recycled story about to be told at the El-Wak stadium between January 10-11? I guess those two important days will put to rest the debate that has been re-ignited again ahead of the championship.
I can’t say Mfantsipim will win the championship for the fourth year running but it will also be disingenuous to think that they will not come into the picture as arguably the favourite to lift the trophy again.
They have lost many of their top stars but if you look at the recruitment policy, it will not be far-fetched to think that they have found equally good replacements.
Koforidua Secondary Technical School, Keta Senior High (Ketasco), Prempeh College, Presec-Legon as well as Ghana Secondary and Technical School (GSTS) are touted as the schools that could challenge the invincibility of Mfantsipim.
Anyway, the one big thing I’m looking forward to with the Sprite Ball Championship is that it will present some exciting games between previous winners of the competition right from the group phase.
You take group A in the girls division and you are presented with a thrilling fixtures which involves reigning champions Aggrey Memorial, Yaa Asantewaa, Tema Senior High and Labone School.
Aggre Memorial have been impressive in the past as well as Yaa Asantewaa who won the title in 2012.
There will be a handful of decent teams to go along with defending national champion Mfantsipim, and it will be interesting to see KSTS for instance actually compete for a conference title after years of cruising through the Eastern Region.
But with two of the bigger programs leaving after this season, zero historical context, and a terrible, generic name, it’s difficult for a neutral fan like me to get excited about the Battery.
But I’ll do my best — Sprite Ball Championship is here! Drink it in, Ghana!