On a warm Saturday evening in my second year at senior high school, I joined friends and colleagues to fill long benches dotted a foot apart to the day’s entertainment package; movie night. As we focused on the white patch of paint work on the dominant green background waiting for projected beams to display the motion picture our entertainment prefect had for us. As young, effervescent, guys with raging hormones, all we wanted was actioned packed shooting scenes, long fighting sequences and exceedingly believable visual effects and yes we did get all these in the hit motion picture “Ghost Rider”.
As haunted as the name might sound, the opposite was the reality and Yes we did get all the shooting and fighting we wanted but what struck me the most and has been lodged in my mind since was, nothing in this world is given freely. The approximately two hour -long storied- movie cut short tells the story of Johnny Blaze, an extreme biker who sells his soul to save his sick father. His father dies eventually and Johnny is stuck with a curse. However, curiousity brews when the building that made me forget about life’s easy pleasures will in a few days host the most coveted trophy in Ghana. St. Augustine’s College won its’ first ever national basketball trophy by defeating eternal rivals Mfantsipim School in the just ended Sprite Ball Championship.
Of the many story lines which run through the final game be it a clash of the tournament Most Valuable Player contenders Kofi Aboagye Acheampong of Mfantsipim School and Dennis “Mantse” Dugbennu of St.Augustine’s College, the latest edition of the “Augusco-Botwe” rivalry, and the high possibility of Mfantsipim adding another trophy to the record four they already have. None was more apparent than the huge points Augustine’s scored by converting shots from the charity stripe or free throw line.
There is a sound reason this shot is called a free throw. In a sport played on a mere 94 feet by 50 feet surface, basketball offers little room for players to do their thing unless that person happens to be talented enough to create space for the shot. Unlike football which has a marauding 100 yards in width and 130 yards in length, players can afford to lazy about for extended stretches in a game. One time Ghana’s best striker Junior Agogo is a prime example as his club Zamalek refused to pay his wages because he did not sweat in a match. True or not, this cant happen in basketball game where players crave for space but no space comes bigger than having the world to yourself at the free throw line.
After Mfantsipim raced to a 8-0 lead early in the first quarter, Augustine’s unsurprisingly started out slowly before clawing themselves back into the game after a nine point run. Just like in the game against Pope John’s Senior High where the Cape Coast-based side trailed 13-6 at the end of the first half, Augusco usurped Mfantsipim to lead 18-12 staying true to the school’s motto “OMNIA VINCIT LABOR” meaning Perseverance Conquers All. The lead was extended in a dominant second half showing by the guys from the Green Camp as they finished the game strongly to hand Mfantsipim a 37-22 beat down. Augustine’s Power Forward Dugbennu recorded a massive 26 points, 16 rebounds and 3 steals game.
What aided Augustine’s win was the opposition’s early foul troubles which meant every foul the team committed sent an Augusco player to the free throw line which they converted many. In qualifying to the finals Mfantsipim had benefited from woeful shooting from their opponents most notably K.S.T.S. and Opoku Ware School in the semi-final.
Losing top anchor man Elorm Dzissah to foul trouble compounded Mfantsipim’s woes as the Augustine’s “4” bulldozed his way to the paint for shots whilst drawing fouls. Playing an average game in the early quarters, Mantse took over proceedings as he gobbled up rebound after rebound following the exit of Elorm.
Augustine’s Coach Lawrence Ampiah showed why he deserved the Coach of the Tournament title he won by instructing his players to drive hard at Mfantsipim’s defense to exploit the open spaces in the painted area and the team’s foul trouble.
Indeed nothing comes free in this overly capitalist world of ours but there is an exception to every rule and in the world of basketball there are things which do come free with nothing in return. The Green Camp of St. Augustine’s College owes a lot to the charity stripe for its first national championship title and who can begrudge them after all they were presented with freebies and they took it with no conditions attached of course.