Aside the uncompleted Zone A, qualifiers for the 2016 Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges (UPAC) Basketball Championship has been smooth sailing since heavy rains interrupted proceedings on the opening day.
The third edition of the Championship has subsequently touched base at various points in Ghana including the distant Northern and Brong-Ahafo Regions. So far, three zones other than Zone A have been completed with University of Development Studies (UDS)-Tamale, University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) win Zones B, C and D respectively.
The respective zone winners qualify automatically to the quarter final stage of the Championship which will take place at the University of Ghana on April 14. However, with the exception of UENR, who qualified from Zone C as hosts, the remnant of the qualified pack in this year’s edition of Ghana’s biggest tertiary basketball championship have not been host institutions. UENR’s all conquering duo of Point guard Robert Brew and Center Ben Quarshie ensured the host institution’s massive but intimidating enclave surrounding its’ basketball court bounced ecstatically with the exceptional brand of basketball on display.
In Zone A, Tamale Polytechnic hosted only UDS and Wa Polytechnic due to NJA College of Education’s late withdrawal from the competition. Despite, benefitting from the support of a vociferous crowd Tamale Poly failed to record a win the tournament before exiting the Rexona-headlined competition. The capital-based institution lost 20-24 to little known Wa Polytechnic and followed it up with another loss, this time coming from city rivals UDS who inflicted another 20-24 loss to the host institution.
In his defence, Coach Braham Muhaga cited lack of competitions as the reason for his team’s abysmal showing before their fans who painfully watched on as their rivals cooped up the sole ticket to Accra. Further south, this weekend’s completed round of qualifiers in Zone D had another home side falter in its’ bid to qualify for the last eight of the competition. Kumasi Polytechnic hosted Ghana Technology University College (GTUC-Kumasi), Garden City University College and KNUST. Unlike Tamale Polytechnic who failed to muster any form of serious challenge, Kumasi Poly were far better than their Northern contemporaries with the team winning two games against GTUC and Garden City.
The former got beaten 23-54 as the latter got thumped 22-47. However, Kumasi Poly’s winning streak ended in the final round with qualification on the line as they fell to last year’s finalists in the main championship, KNUST 31-42. It was a sad end to the winning run made palatable by the exceptional exploits of starting Guard Kelvin Sowuah Kumah who single-handedly turned Kumasi Polytechnic’s average roster into a top tier group worthy of a quarter final appearance.
Kumah’s infectious plays over the three game stretch culminated in he being named Tournament Most Valuable Player after he averaged 13 points, 4.6 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. As good as he was during the mini tournament, Kumah couldn’t see out KNUST’s team-oriented basketball that had brilliant touches from experienced duo; Ekow Amoako and Kwame Akrasi who featured in the team’s late collapse to Accra Polytechnic in last year’s final. KNUST’s win also ended Kumasi Poly’s consistent run in the last eight of the Championship following quarter final appearances in 2011 and 2015.
Even in the incomplete Zone A, where games were played at the University of Ghana, the original hosts, University of Professional Studies, failed to show up for the tournament. The Legon-based institution was the original host of Zone A; however extensive damage to its’ basketball court and failure to fix it in time for the games, convinced tournament organizers Rite Sports Limited to strip UPSA off hosting rights. Enraged by the decision, the 2014 Ghana Universities Sports Association (GUSA) Games Basketball finalists withdrew from the tournament.
As the qualification train heads to Cape-Coast for Zone E games at the University of Cape-Coast, all eyes will be on the institutions team to deliver a win for the home fans and also halt the slump of home teams in the competition. The host team will have to beat out competition from University of Education-Winneba, Takoradi Polytechnic and town rivals Cape-Coast Polytechnic.
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.