The ambience of the University of Ghana basketball courts was as electrifying as Rucker Park on a Saturday evening. With near gravity defying dunks (mostly from one player) and dexterous dribbling skills, the calibre of basketball on display was testimony to how far the game had come and how further it could go. With the tournament being tagged as a “Warm up”, the competitiveness and fierceness on display only meant that the tournament proper was going to be fire and brimstone! Four teams participated in the Accra warm-up with the host University of Ghana(UG) and Accra Polytechnic(A-Poly) being the top seeds; facing off against Central University and University of Professional Studies(UPSA) respectively.
UG eases through against Central
The UG- Central game was not billed to be a tough one for the host institution. UG came out with their shooting guns, scoring 8 straight points before Central responded with Francis (Oloma) and freshman guard, Joel leading the charge. The game lulled in the second quarter and picked up steam later in the third and fourth. UG was in the lead throughout the game and at some stretches of the game, led by as many as 10 points. Central did its best at clawing down the deficit and succeeded in reducing it to just a half basket at a point in the game. However, the fourth quarter proved to be the decider with Central’s big man fouling out and Legon capitalizing on that and driving down the paint for what mostly was uncontested layups. The game ended on a low scoring note with UG winning with 35 points against Central’s 21 after four quarters of play.
A-Poly survives UPSA scare
Accra Polytechnic was rightly tipped as the pre-tournament favourites and anyone familiar with the calibre of players this team possesses will not be wrong in thinking likewise. So when UPSA was balloted to meet A-Poly, all pundits expected a routing of UPSA. However, when two of A-Poly’s star players Dodzie Baniba and Doggy decided to sit out the game because of injury issues (or as some said, “to level the playing field”), some hope for UPSA was restored. Yet still, A-Poly’s line-up remained an indomitable one. They boasted of a 6-10 centre in Romeo, who by Ghanaian standards was Yao Ming. They also had “Big Time” who showed he was worth his name during some stretches of the game with Big Time plays. The first quarter of the game was not dominated by either side but saw a few panache plays by A-Poly whose centre, Romeo soared up for a power slam and blocked a couple of shots. The tempo of the game started rising from the second quarter as Farhat and Big Time of A-Poly started asserting themselves on the game with drives, pull-up jumpers and a couple of three pointers. UPSA stuck around the whole time with their two guard play proving efficient on the offense. Delvin had a couple of piercing drives down the paint but the imposing defenders of A-Poly either blocked his shots or fouled him. His inefficiency at the free throw line cost his team a lot. As the game proceeded, UPSA began using their shooting guard, Kwarteng who made a couple of back to back three pointers. And whenever he sank one, Farhat responded with either a three of his own or a mid-range jumper. The game eventually ended 50-42 in favour of A-Poly.
Women’s game: A-Poly beat UG:
The precursor to the tournament finals was a women’s game which was dominated by A-Poly from the onset who comfortably went on to win the game 21-15.
THE FINALS: A-POLY triumphs over UG
The eventually outcome of the tournament was not one too hard to predict. Both teams in the finals were the top seeds and thus were both highly tipped to square off in the finals. For A-Poly, they had the billing of being the pre-tournament favourites to live up to. For UG, theirs was the sanctity of the home court they had to protect. By tip off time, the court had been circumferenced by the teeming supporters of both institutions. Even though UG had home court advantage, their fans were eclipsed by the overly excited, charged and loud fans of A-Poly. With the ambience set for a thriller of a final, both teams had no excuse but to bring their “A” game on. A-Poly went off on a scoring spree from tip off, being very cautious to not underestimate UG like they did UPSA. However, UG struggled in the first quarter as their game plan was to attack the rim on every possession. The ever present bigs of A-Poly in the persons of Romeo, Baba and Big Time were always on hand to thwart any attempt to finish at the rim. However, the few times UG made it to the free throw line from such possessions, they did not make the most out of it. UG’s shooting guard, Kofi turned things around with a couple of threes and jumpers and so did their senior forward, Chronic. Their point guard, Joel was also a delight to watch as the freshman made some plays which defied the fact that he is a freshman. As the game wore on, UG started matching A-Poly boot for boot and at the end of the third quarter, UG was in the lead by a half basket. At a point, the 6-10 Romeo was equally matched by UG’s 6-2 forward, Tettegah. The latter succeeded in blocking a shot and taking an offensive rebound over the imposing former.
The fourth quarter proved to be the determining period with A-Poly coming out with all guns ready and UG slacking a little at the beginning. A-Poly took advantage of this and kept feeding the ball to Farhat and Romeo who used their speed and height advantage to make finishing drives into the UG paint. At the tail end of the game with UG trailing, they (UG) made two back to back 3s in an attempt to mitigate the gap only for Farhat to respond with a 3 of his own and maintain the point gap. The game ended 60-54 in favour of A-Poly.
A time clock, score board and buzzer beater were used in the tournament. This was a refreshing development from the use of marker boards for keeping scores and stop watches which most of the time were inefficient in keeping the time.
Despite being a warm-up tournament, the competitiveness was top notch indicating how exciting and competitive the tournament proper will be.
Romeo of A-Poly was adjudged the tournament MVP. The 6-10 forward/centre recorded almost every stat during the tournament. He was dominant under the rim, cleaning the board on the offensive and defensive end, dunked it a couple of times and occasionally nailed a 3 pointer.
UG’s Joel was arguably the most promising player of the tournament. Despite being only 18 and fresh out of Presec Legon, he handled the ball with dexterity, made smart plays, had great court vision and drove into the paint of opposing teams without the fear of getting blocked.