The 2016 Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges (UPAC) Basketball Championship qualifiers is already three weeks old and heading full throttle into its fourth week as Zone D games are scheduled to take place on Saturday March 19 at Kumasi Polytechnic.
The third edition of the Championship-which began in 2011-is headlined by world best-selling deodorant Rexona and is in the preliminary stage. Though the winner for Zone A is yet to be confirmed following the postponement of the final round of games, University of Development Studies-Tamale and University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) booked places in the quarter finals due to be held at the University of Ghana on April 14. Both teams beat out competitions from Zones Band C to the top respectively.
Come Saturday, it will be the turn of host Kumasi Polytechnic, Garden City University College, Ghana Technology University-Kumasi and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to do battle. Up for grabs will be the sole qualifying spot to the last eight of the competition. The scenery will change as Kumasi Polytechnic takes over hosting rights from KNUST, who hosted last year’s edition but nothing will change at least not on the competitive side with four of the best tertiary institutions in the Ashanti Region set to renew deep rooted rivalries.
Starting off with the host; Kumasi Polytechnic has one of Ghana’s best coaches in Emmanuel Essel Worbil popularly known as “Coach Ghanaar” on the sidelines. His abrasive yet tactically in tune style of coaching, has made him a success in many stints with several teams over the years including leading Tema Sharks to a semi final finish at Ghana’s first community based basketball tournament late last year. By some strange luck, the coach has had more reps with the team this year than last year (to be continued) which in turn raises expectations of his side before tipoff. Despite having a rich history in the competition which dates back to the competition’s inaugural season in 2011, an experienced coach in Ghanaar and home fans to cheer them on, K Poly will look to avoid the disaster that befell Tamale Polytechnic. Host of Zone B, Tamale Polytechnic failed to win any games in front of a partisan crowd who watched in despair as University of Development Studies walked away with the sole qualification ticket.
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) will be kicking itself for letting Accra Polytechnic back into last year’s final game and eventually cede victory to the 2011 champions. However, the loss of floor general Nana Agyei has seen the team nose dive in form punctuated by an abysmal showing at the Ghana Universities Sports Association (GUSA) Games this year. The likes of Kwame Akrasi and Ekow Amoako must step up for the “TECHNOCRATS” if they are to find any kind of success in the Championship even if it is in its’ preliminary stage.
Garden City University College, like Kumasi Polytechnic has been a part of UPAC since 2011albeit in an unimpressive way. The team is yet to qualify out of the zone in each of the previous editions where KNUST and the host institution have enjoyed the fruits of venturing deep in the championship.
To qualify, Garden City University will have to get over the challenge of not having a basketball court and trekking all over the Garden City looking for one and beat out competition from players with loads of experience in many other competitions.
Lastly, Ghana Technology University College comes into the competition with a mammoth task qualifying out of the zone in the face of extreme challenges that mirror those of Garden City. The competition’s new comer has welcomed the challenge of taking on the best in the region in Ghana’s biggest tertiary basketball competition this weekend.
A 30-24 win over local side Chiefs Basketball in the final warm up game of the team shows signs of a burgeoning elite competitor. In the game, the young lads demonstrated a unique ability to rally from behind and claim the impressive win. A long shot title contender they might be but Zone D shouldn’t sleep on GTUC.
The 2016 UPAC Championship is headlined by Rexona, supported by MTN, CAL Bank and Fanyogo in partnership with Basketballghana.com, TV3, YFM and Ghana Sports Newspaper.