The euphoria that greeted T.I. Ahmediyya Senior High School female basketball team’s enchanting path to greatness will be difficult to usurp. The Ashanti Region-based school burst unto the scene with subdued fanfare as they qualified for the Sprite Ball Championship for the first time in the competition’s history. A big achievement by the school considering basketball was a “late bloomer sport” in the institution and the presence of 2012 Champions Yaa Asantewaa Girls’ in the regional qualifiers.
Through disciplined and team first-oriented basketball, T.I. AMASS surprised every one by going all the way to the finals and beating former champions Aggrey Memorial to annex the trophy. Proving their record defying success wasn’t a fluke, the 2014 champions bested all to win the following year and cap off a tremendous finals run only surpassed by Mfantsipim’s three straight titles between 2010 and 2013. Heading into the 2016 edition alongside debutants Kumasi Girls High School, T.I. AMASS were the overwhelming favorites for the title. Unfortunately, the team’s quest for an unprecedented third title in the girls’ division was foiled by debutants Accra Wesley Girls’ High School 12-8 win in the semi final. The Wesleyan girls’, making their first appearance in the competition qualified to the finals as they bid to equal AMASS’s surprise run in 2014.
In the end, what was supposed to be a journey to immortality turned out be one of unfulfilled business as T.I. AMASS claimed bronze in a repeat of the Ashanti Regional finals. In hindsight, the team’s failure to reach its’ target resonates as one of the story lines that climaxed Sprite Ball 2016 aside St.Augustine’s College dethroning Mfantsipim, Accra Wesley Girls’ magical run to the final and Aggrey Memorial winning the trophy after several attempts.
One reason behind the team’s comparatively poor performance in the just ended tournament boils down to the fundamental tool in raising a champion;great players. Every player needs them to wade into title conversation no matter the place on earth and I strongly suspect, even beyond. Have a great player, capable of doing utter worldly things on the court in your team then you have a title shot. Have two or more-like the triple winning mid-90’s Chicago Bulls teams that had Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman-then you are blessed. Mfantsipim got to the final on the back of Kofi Aboagye Acheampong’s strong showing through six games. St. Augustine’s would not have won the school’s first ever title without MVP Dennis “Mantse” Dugbennu.
Playing without 2015 High School Female Player of the Year nominee Rachel Obeng affected the team badly as “they missed her colossus amount of basketball IQ” which “represents the embodiment of hope for TI Amass” according to Sprite Ball Coordinator Patrick Akoto. Though the team replenished the roster with new faces including Joyce Owusu from the YETS Foundation (a Dutch owned basketball and education program) it was not enough to wield the defending champions to another title. The team had just two remnants from last year’s winning team in imposing Center Isha and Forward Rebecca and unsurprisingly could not make up for the dropoff in quality.
Another reason why T.I.AMASS couldn’t defend their crown was a line that run through all schools from Ashanti Region or Kumasi to be specific. Biased officiating. Coach Ahmed complained bitterly in the aftermath of his side’s surprising defeat in the semi finals as he felt a lot of calls were wrongly made. He cited instances where his team should have gone to the free throw line but were ignore by officials in charge. His complaints mirrored those of Kumasi Girls’ High School coach Zibo Brown who made a similar call after his side’s narrow 18-19 loss to eventual champion Aggrey Memorial as they got called early for foul trouble.
Over in the boys’ division, Opoku Ware School coach Alexander Obeng Takyi yelled “it is not fair” many times to officials after his side fell to Mfantsipim in their emotionally charged semi final game. He went ahead to say ” If care is not taken officiating officials might mare this very good basketball event in the near future and my school is even hesitant to play in the next Sprite (Ball) due to this”.
T.I. Ahmediyya’s two year stranglehold on the ladies basketball crown in Ghana has been lost, the thought of a total meltdown that a befallen former champions Sacred Heart School and Armed Forces Senior High School.