You must have heard Shama Senior High School are the 2020 Sprite Ball Champions by now and you must have heard the team’s title win was anything but straight forward. For the record, Shama needed a missed free throw from Sandra Dankorah to beat St. Louis Senior High School 15-14 to lift the Girls Division title in Ghana’s most celebrated High School Basketball competition. Had Agyemang converted one of two free throws, the title would have been settled in overtime with a major question on which school would come through crunch time.
However, Shama did survive and in the process made history by becoming the first school from Ghana’s Western Region to lift the Sprite Ball Championship. Courtesy of its gutsy win, Shama is the first to do so in the Girls Division from the region in the competition’s 13 year history. Many expected bigger names from the region particularly in the Boys Division to break the region’s duck but Shama defied the odds.
While St. John’s School, Sekondi and Ghana Senior Technical School (GSTS) came close by clinching Bronze in previous editions, neither could get over the hump nor clinch gold for the region rich in the precious metal. From the cool breezed coast to the humid tropical forests in the north, Shama represented every bit of the diverse riches, landscape and temperateness of Ghana’s Western Region.
Right from the regional qualifiers, it was quite clear Shama had the perfect mix of finesse and power and the abilities to win pretty and in not so pretty ways in other games. This was reflected in the results the school chalked through the long journey to immortality.
At the regionals held at St. John’s recently constructed court, Shama completely shut out Half Assini Senior High School with a 20-0 win before grinding out a 6-2 win over Baidoo Bonsoe Senior High School to reach the finals. With qualification to this year’s competition at stake, Shama turned on the style to beat Fijai Senior High School 17-3 and win its second regional title on the bounce.
Sealing its place in the national competition came with its challenges as Shama was drawn in the Group of Death alongside record winners in the Girls Division-Wesley Girls High School-, two time silver medal winners Accra Wesley Girls High School and 2019 fourth placed team St. Louis Senior High School.
Only the top two teams would progress to the semifinals and that looked certain with Shama bagging an 11-7 win over Wesley Girls and a 17-9 win over Accra Wesley Girls.
However, a 17-24 loss to familiar foe St. Louis put qualification ambitions on ice as Shama’s chances of progress hinged on the fallout from the battle of the “Wesley Girls” in the final Group B game. A 21-12 win for Wesley Girls over Accra Wesley wasn’t enough to get the former through to the next stage as Shama sneaked in only to go up against the reigning two time winners Kumasi Girls Senior High School.
Hailee Steinfield was nominated for an Academy Award for her leading role in the critically acclaimed movie “True Grit” in 2010. A decade later, the ladies of Shama deserve an Academy Award for showing the truest grit as they battled from a 4-11 deficit to stun Kumasi Girls 23-17 and make it to its first ever Final.
Prior to that historic win, Shama had fallen twice at the same stage en route to clinching bronze medals including the 2019 edition. Ashanti Region champions St. Louis had beaten Shama twice in three games in the competition in the lead up to the final and had the psychological advantage of a win in their last matchup.
Down 8-9 at half time in a tough final, Shama dug deep into its fuel tank to recover from the one point deficit and get the go ahead shot in the final minutes before the contest was decided from the charity stripe. As the main catalyst for Shama’s glorious run, Gifty Nkrumah was named as the Most Valuable Player in the competition with George Hanson running away with the Coach of the Tournament Title.
Physical Education Head at Shama Paul Ampaw made his team’s title ambitions intentions clear in the aftermath of wrapping up qualification from the region and by overcoming tough challenges, Shama turned those ambitions into reality. For the next 12 months, Shama Senior High School’s Female Basketball Team has the enviable but fitting plaudit as Western Region’s Finest and Ghana’s Finest.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter