For over three decades Upcountry Basketball has been spinning and there has always been the usual awarding of medals to exceptional players and trophies to champions, but never cash prizes to champions.
This year’s tournament was an exception as Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf, Chief Executive Officer of BYC Football dished out US$160 for the 1st and 2nd winners respectively. Winners GUMS received U$100 and runners-up Gboveh High received U$60.
He urged the winners to keep the spirit and keep the courage with their heads up.
Mr. Sirleaf said he was making the donation as a way to inspire the winners for the future.
For the Lions of Ganta United Methodist School (GUMS), Mr. Sirleaf was filled of excitement and quickly said he was proud of their win after three failed fights when emerged in the finals.
Presenting the cash prize of US$100 to GUMS, he said: “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win It,” quoting former British Prime Minister Madam Margaret Thatcher, who was known as the Iron Lady.
Mr. Sirleaf also presented the individuals’ awards. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Youth & Sports honored basketball referees of the tournament.
The Ministry said a referee is the heart of the game, most especially in upcountry basketball tourney, which involved youths from different groups and geographical regions of Liberia.
Deputy Sports Minister Henry B. Yonton, Jr., in an interview after the tournament said referees created a fair and safe environment for everyone to enjoy the tournament.
He stated though the Ministry provided accommodation and transportation to the schools as well as to the tournament’s support staff, including allowances which also benefitted the referees that ensured that the laws of the game were followed.
“The games were nerve-racking because teams wanted to win so much, but being that they were top referees, the games were very enjoyable,” Minister Yonton said.
Referees honored with medals were Solomon Johnson – chief referee of the Liberia Basketball Association (LBA) – who was also head of the refs’ delegation and Matthias Nimely, former 1973 MVP for Lutheran Training Institute (LTI).
Others were J. Alexander Davis, Tuss Dixon, Thomas Hayward and Lawrence Tweh.