It was about time Pope John High School and Junior Seminary (POJOSS) won a medal at the celebrated Sprite Ball Championship. The side beat Opoku Ware School 26-19 to win third place at the 2016 Sprite Ball to claim a first ever title in the school’s history.
Ghana’s biggest and most celebrated high school basketball tournament –Sprite Ball- has hosted Pope John since its inception in 2007 as the school’s basketball team has been an ever present figure in the competition in spite of the increased level of competition and intensity. Timing is key to the success of many a venture and Pope John’s third place win, couldn’t have been timed better than it did since winning the medal in the tournament’s ninth year makes it one of the favorites for the next year’s title. For so many years, qualifying from the Eastern Regional Qualifiers had been almost a giving for the school as consistent appearances followed in the wake of the school’s participation.
However and like many others in this position, St. John’s School in Sekondi for instance, the side struggled to replicate such great form in the zone at the main championship in the capital Accra. Several appearances resulted in botched attempts to make it to the latter stages of the tournament until January 3, 2016 when the James Okine-led side tipped off its campaign in Group B against St. John’s, Prempeh College and Adisadel College. Making it through the group stage and quarter finals against Presbyterian Boys Secondary School-Legon 18-7 this time around, the side shattered the ceiling on its previous showings by making a final four berth.
Against St. Augustine’s College, POJOSS started brightly in the All-Catholic schools clash, by taking a 13-6 lead in the first half with star man Emmanuel Dery taking to the fight to the Central Region side. Conversely, Augustine’s two man tandem of Dennis Dugbennu and Raymond Affram rediscovered their magic to power the side to a 24-22 win. Augustine’s would go on to win the title for the first time after beating bitter rival Mfantsipim School 37-22 in the final game. Battling Opoku Ware for third spot, the Koforidua-based side pulled out all the stops to earn a 26-19 win and make history.
For the young lads, claiming a first ever piece of silverware for the famous school was a pleasant experience and for the long suffering heads who had witnessed years of underachievement, the moment proved too surreal. Shooting Guard Dery was tagged one of the best in the competition and the team was lauded for its dynamic albeit team-first approach play. To ensure the achievement was no fluke, the school plunged deep in the High School and College Draft by selecting and offering scholarships to Johnathan Teye and Casburg Kobina Mensah after both guys impressed at the scrimmages. Adding the two to an already impressive tournament ready side deepens its depth to mount a serious challenge in the 2017 edition.
“Vela Darmus” meaning “Set Sail” perfectly embodies what Pope John High School and Junior Seminary brings to Sprite Ball 2017; ready to set sail, ready to win.