As the days and hours tick down to the biggest celebration of basketball in the West African sub region; the 10th anniversary of Sprite Ball High School Basketball Championship, Basketballghana.com will for the remainder of the year take you on an epic journey of discovery, achievement and greatness.
We start the countdown with the reigning champions St. Augustine’s College from Ghana’s basketball haven, Central Region.
“Mbo Augustine” meaning “Great Augustine” is the first words of the anthem of this great educational institution located along the Gulf of Guinea and several months down the line from that fateful day “Augusco” registered its first ever Sprite Ball title, the words still reverberate in the minds of several fans.
January 7, 2016 will forever be a day etched in the history of the school much like 1930; the year it was established. However, greatness has eluded the school’s basketball team at the pre eminent high school basketball competition in West Africa despite having a rich tradition of alumni that includes Progressive People’s Party founder and Leader Dr. Papa Kwesi Ndoum.
In the mid 2000’s, the likes of Kwame Boamah Djan, Josiah Karikari, Carl Tamakloe and Jarvis Borchott took the mantle but ultimately fell short of glory after placing second behind Achimota School in 2007.
A fallow period followed in the wake of silver medal as Augustine’s consistently as Rudolf Acolatse and Gracefield Attoh’s quarter final showing in the 2013 Championship. In 2016, the ground was fertile for a new name to ascend the throne; a throne fit for a king and it was a King who mounted the chariots and spurred the Green Army’s charge to glory.
Dennis Dugbenu alias Mantse meaning King in the Ga language was an omnipresent and unmovable force as Augustine’s blitzed Ghana Lebanon Islamic Senior High School, old nemesis Presbyterian Boys Senior and novices Kadjebi Asato at the preliminary stages. With “super star” confidant Raymond Affram manning the point position, Mantse laid waste to the opposing field’s front court with an unmatched blend of athleticism, power, elite ball handling skills and a deft touch around the basket.
Prempeh College proved no match as the march carried on into the semifinals meeting Coach Lawrence Ampiah’s pre-tournament expectation. But in Pope John Senior High-a fellow great Catholic institution that has slumbered for a long time- and their dynamic, outspoken and hyper driven coach James Okine, the task got tougher as the side lumbered to a 24-22 win.
Despite trailing 6-13 at the end of the first quarter, Augusco recomposed itself and stifled John’s springy shooting guard Emmanuel Derry to set up a mouthwatering encounter against eternal rivals Mfantsipim School in the final after the latter made the final contest following some controversial and languid decisions referee calls.
The conspiracy theorists have their number on that game as they see the “Botwe-Augusco” final as a planned scheme to spike ratings. Theories aside, the game pitched two of the most domineering figures in the championship; Kofi Aboagye Acheampong and Dugbenu, the contrasting colour schemes of the greatest high school rivalry in the red and black of Mfantsipim and green and white of Augustine’s.
All the great words of wisdom from ace broadcaster Nathaniel Attoh and Ghana Weightlifter Association Chairman Ben Nunoo Mensah -both proud alumni-got tossed out of the window with Ralph Nuame, Aboagye and Elorm Dzissah spurring a 10 nothing run. But in the distinct words of the Irish founding fathers of the college that is crystallized in its motto “Omnia Vincit Labor- Perseverance Conquers All” the gallant young men fought back to lead 18-14 at the close of the first half.
The huge Augusco entourage that besieged court charged up the atmosphere with nonstop “jama” songs that had Mfantsipim fall to a 17-30 deficit in the final quarters before the game was buried definitely with seven more points from the Augustinian hoopsters.
The win was a sign of greater things to come as months later St. Augustine’s College dominated the high school male division at the Ghana Basketball Awards with Dennis Dugbenu winning the Male Player of the Year, Lawrence Ampiah winning Coach of the Year and Team of the Year.
Now that the Green Camp has finally got the mojo of its back, it sets its eyes on repeating as champions at the decade celebration of the championship and equal Mfantsipim’s feat of being the only side to do in the male division.