St. Martin Catholic High School over the weekend defeated Tubman Gray in a dramatic final to win the 2018 ‘Harold Emmett McGowan Upcountry Basketball’ tournament in Gbarnga City, Bong County at the Tubman Gray sports gymnasium.
The Catholic boys overturned a 4-0 deficit to put up a surprising 26–24 point victory against hosts Tubman Gray High school in the dramatic final at the jam-packed gymnasium.
T-Gray failed to continue their lead due to lack of coordination, coupled with failure to make use of their free throws, a situation their opponent took advantage of to frustrate them in her own backyard.
The win marks St. Martin’s fourth championship after winning the crown in 1987, 1988 and 2012.
The Upcountry Basketball tournament, renamed the Harold Emmett McGowan Tournament, was initiated in the early 1970’s to help promote the game among high schools of the central region, which then comprised Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties.
The basketball challenge also served as a catalyst for academic excellence, discipline and growth of the sport at the national level.
This year’s event which, celebrated under the theme, “Providing Equal Opportunity through Sports”, was graced by the United States-based honoree and his wife Affua Ajavon McGowan. The tournament featured five high schools in a thrilling basketball competition.
In the third place match, Lutheran Training Institute (LTI) of Lofa narrowly pinned Zorzor Central High 22–20 points to win the 3rd place.
Hosts Tubman Gray High and St. Martin represented Bong County while Zorzor Central High and LTI traveled from far away Lofa County. C.H. Dewey High School was Bomi County’s lone Representative.
The tournament was designed in round robin fixtures and commenced on Friday November 10, 2018, attracting the attention of many, especially young people in the county.
In the day’s first match, T-Gray High took a 20–1 point lead to beat LTI at the T-Gray gymnasium.
Ganta United Methodist forfeited to Zorzor Central High due to an eleventh hour withdrawal from the competition.
St. Martin Catholic High demolished Zorzor Central High 46–11 points, while C.H Dewey pulled out of her 2nd match against T–Gray in the dawn minute after trailing at 30–32 points on counts of cheating.
In the semi final fixtures, Tubman Gray trashed Zorzor Central High 41–38 points to advance to Grand Finale while St. Martin, in her quest for the championship, demolished Lutheran Training Institute 60–20 points to proceed to the Grand Finale of the tournament, thus making it an all-Bong affair.
In the exhibition matches, which added flavor to the event, Paynesville Old Timers beat Bong Shooters 22-18 points while Tubman Gray girls beat St. Martin 4-0.
Samson Jallah of St. Martin was decorated with the Most Valuable Player Award, while Alvin Dogba of T-Gray won the most talented award and Zorzor High’s William J. Kollie got the highest rebound award, climaxing the Harold McGowan Upcountry basketball festival in Central Liberia.
Audrin Smith–Forbes, Deputy Youth and Sports Minister for Administration, who served as keynote speaker at the closing program, congratulated Harold Mcgowan for his innovation and services to Liberia when the country needed him most.
Mrs. Smith–Forbes added that the honoree’s combination to sports and education in promoting academic excellence and character is a model that has made significant impact in the lives of many and the country at large.
She said that government will continue to support the program in order to provide the positive incentives for the youthful community, while building character, leadership and good health, among others.
Presenting the awards to the athletes, the former American Peace Corps and Basketball Coach, Harold Emmett McGowan expressed joy over good sportsmanship exhibited during the course of the tournament.
Mr. McGowan thanked the schools, players, technical staff, as well as the Ministry of Youth and Sports on the manner in which the event has grown over the years.
He also challenged the athletes to continue to use the sport to excel and become more disciplined and productive for the betterment of the Liberian Society.