Little over a fortnight from today, two teams on the opposite side of the tournament bracket sorted out their respective opponents with ease. Accra Polytechnic, two-time winners and defending champions put up a scintillating performance to down Takoradi Polytechnic 55-41. On the other side, hosts University of Ghana (UG) managed to fend off an unexpectedly stubborn Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) by piping the Kumasi side 49-47.
The win meant UG would make its’ first ever final appearance in the Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges (UPAC) Basketball Championship since the competition began in 2011. Unlike previous years, Accra Poly went into the game as underdogs considering UG had demolished the side with a sound performance to beat Accra Poly 38-26 a day earlier. Gone was Farahat Tamimu’s dead eye shooting which was a major weapon in sealing Accra Poly’s second title last year against KNUST and highly rated Center Romeo Enan.
The latter’s impressive performances willed the team to an incredible haul of victories in the UPAC, GHAPSA (Ghana Polytechnic Sports Association) and WAPOGA (West Africa Polytechnic Games Association) basketball competitions respectively. Unsurprisingly, he was named Tertiary Player of the Year at the Ghana Basketball Awards in 2015 and his absence meant any team that matched the quality and intensity the team still had, would have a chance at annexing the trophy.
UG did not only match Accra Polytechnic in the aforementioned categories, they also excelled in one area many teams failed to master; the psychological battles. When things weren’t going well, their heads never dropped. They just kept coming back at Accra Polytechnic. In the end, their tenacity proved a success as Shooting Guard Emmanuel Wolff’s very very late three point shot separated the teams and give UG the title. Just as death and taxes are inevitable phenomenon humans deal with on a daily basis, award presentation and victory ceremonies are constants after every show.
As such, technical brains behind the competition awarded UG Forward Muhaimin Guba as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Tournament. His achievement came at the expense of several players who stood out in the three day event of the competition’s latter stages. Maxwell Mod of University of Ghana, Kent Fosu of Takoradi Polytechnic, Robert Fiifi Brew of University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) and Suleman Abubakar of Accra Polytechnic readily come to mind as worthy candidates for the top individual prize.
However, watching the tournament unfold, one got the impression the top award always looked like a straight fight between Guba, Mod and Alhassan. Fittingly all three players played in the final game. Guba’s numbers in five games had the undersized Forward average 5.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.0 assists. Mod’s numbers were better than Guba’s with the Forward averaging 10.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 4.2 blocks per game. Mod certainly had an upper hand heading into the final quarters of the final game by playing an instrumental role in the team’s lead.
Conversely, he got ejected from the game after fouling out of the game close to the end of the third quarter. On the opposite end of the court, Suleman “Big Time” Alhassan saw the entire game as Accra Polytechnic’s stranglehold in the tertiary division ended courtesy Wolff’s miracle shot. Though his team lost, Ahassan scored big time-forgive my pun- on the individual front by registering 10.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 4.2 blocks per game.
Guba’s numbers pale in comparison to those of his top contemporaries but he was named the best player leaving many to question how come. Guba’s win was reminiscent of the kind of numbers Robert Brew produced for UENR to win Zone C in the preliminary qualifiers.
The skilled Point Guard won the Most Valuable Player in Zone C after averaging 6.4 points, four rebounds and two assists in three games. However, the floor general was the turning point in the game after UENR trailed Catholic University College in the Zone C final. With his team trailing by five, Brew produced the game’s highlight when he gathered the ball whilst struggling for balance, crossed his man over and drove to the basket to score beautifully. The move sparked the team into action as UENR went on a scoring run to lead 33-7 at the end of the second half.
Muhaimin Guba also produced similar note worthy moves in the latter stages of the competition particularly against Accra Polytechnic in both games the teams faced each other. In the quarter final Group A game against Accra Poly, Guba drove hard in quick succession to the basket to extend UG’s lead which proved the killer blow in the game. His drives came at a price though as he was got injured in two separate forays into the paint.
On the less glamorous end of the court, Guba played steady defense on Small Forward Farahat Tamimu who got wasn’t his usual self from beyond the three point line. His legendary three point stroke deserted him for long stretches against UG. Many pointed to his elbow on Guba as deliberate due to his inability to shake him off. Farahat’s frustration’s boiled over when he fouled out of the game leaving the team one man short of their dynamic backcourt which has 2015 National MVP Abdul Mutaleeb Alhassan.
The numbers do not always tell the full story and Guba’s win justifies this.