Ganta, Nimba County – C. H. Dewey High School of Bomi County has won the 2016 Harold McGowan upcountry basketball tournament.
They beat defending champions Ganta United Methodist High School (GUMHS) by 44 to 38 points in an entertaining grand finale at their gymnasium in Ganta, Nimba County on November 12.
C. H. Dewey began their journey in Group A by beating Lutheran Training Institute (LTI) of Lofa County by 52 to 7 points and made it two wins by beating Charles Brumskine Institute of Grand Bassa by 18 to 13 points.
They were assured of a semi-final place when St. Martins Catholic High School of Bong County failed to show-up and swept past Gboveh High School also of Bong County to reach the grand final.
Youth and Sports Minister Saah Charles N’tow presented the trophies to the winners.
“The team that was just defeated was celebrating just like you [during the 2015 edition].”
“So it tells you that every year people fight hard to come and carry something. Today is your time. But mind you if you don’t keep it strong maybe another team could come and take it.
“On behalf of the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Youth and Sports and all of those who supported us to make this happen and I want to extend special thanks to the office of the vice president for his very special support. He was supposed to be here but he sent us some sets of jerseys.
“So ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct honor and pleasure to reward the effort of this very gallant team.”
“This brilliant team, the team [that comes] from Bomi Hill. And the winner of the 2016 Harold McGowan upcountry basketball tournament is C. H. Dewey!” said an ecstatic N’tow.
He was pleased with the level of discipline and good sportsmanship and praised Deputy Sports Minister Henry Yonton, who fought against all odds to make the tournament a success.
N’tow thanked the government, Srimex, Oragon, Aminata, National Port Authority, Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, Carter Center, Right To Play, Manco and Jungle Water for their sponsorship.
C. H. Dewey were worthy of their first championship as Francis Fayiah collected the most valuable player and highest scorer (76 points) awards; Eddie Nyanfor won the best guard and highest assist awards and Charles Roberts was named the best coach.
“It is interesting and I am overwhelmed. As you can hear my voice, I am just happy to cheer and crack jokes with my young friends.”
“It was a very long plan [to achieve this success]. We came last year but we didn’t make it.
“So we went back [to the drawing board] and decided to participate greatly into this championship. We feel happy [because] it was just a proper planning. “
“So it is not a shock or surprise to us. These are kids from Tubmanburg, who love the game and the school try to support them by keeping them in school,” Roberts explained.
GUMHS beat Tubman Gray United Methodist High School (TGUMHS) of Bong County in the first semi-final but their coach was a disappointed man after the finals.
“I am very much sad and disheartened tonight. I don’t know what to do, especially as defending champions.
The game was competitive. It is just that my team, unfortunately, missed all the free throws and turn-outs but it is the will of God.
“We tried changing the strategy but we had a little fatigue in the team. My power center had pain in his waist from the previous game.”
“So we were just forcing him [to play] but that’s it.”
“Next year, we hope to recover,” said Joe Quickly, Junior, who proposed an inter-school sports association to allow the children to have recreation.
Zorzor-based LTI also won the most discipline and best fair play team awards.
Before the finals, Carter Center held a forum among the students on access to justice and promoting the rule of law as Liberians prepare for next year’s presidential and legislative elections.
“The ministry has been our longtime partner because it is the arm of government that has focus for youth [and sports] developments.”
“So we’ve a project that deals with youth issues, especially on the access to justice. And we are involved when it comes to youth development.
“Our interest is as we go to 2017 elections we want to use every available means that we can engage young people to talk about peace elections and non-violent activities so that they can be messengers of peace at the community levels,” Flomoku pointed-out.
Traditionally before the final, old-timers, who participated before the civil wars, played among themselves to provide mentorship and encourage a focus on sports and academics.
So, civil society activist Oscar Bloh of the Elections Coordinating Committee and Assistant Justice Minister Hilary Siakor Sirleaf graced the occasion.
Bloh (an attorney-at-law) and Sirleaf, who came through the mentorship of McGowan in the early 70s, told reporters that the tournament was the heartbeat of high school basketballers and only “A” and “B” students were eligible to participate.
“Harold McGowan was my coach when I was in Gboveh High School. We took part in this tournament. My last game was in 1981 when we played in Ganta. So it has been 35 years coming back to play in this gym and it was just overwhelming for me.
“I am happy that I am part of this upcountry basketball tournament going on this year in honor of Harold McGowan, the dream and the power behind basketball in Bong County and Liberia,” Siakor recalled.
The tournament is held every November in honor of McGowan, an American Peace Corp Volunteer, who used basketball as a vehicle to encourage youth in education especially in the rural areas.
This year’s participants were C. H. Dewey, LTI, CBI, TGUMHS, GUMHS, Nimba-based Carroll High and St. Mary’s Catholic High Schools and Gboveh and the tournament was held from November 9-12.
Since the resumption of the tournament in 2010, St. Martins have dominated followed by GUMHS.