By Peter Ejiofor
The 21st Nestle Milo Secondary School Basketball Championships ended on Thursday on an entertaining note as the 2017 and 2018 Champions in both the girls and boys categories retained their titles for the third consecutive time.
In the competition’s finals at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, St. Jude’s Girls’ Secondary School, Amarata, Bayelsa, wasted no time to defeat Government Secondary School, Gboko, Benue, 22-15 to emerge 2019 champions making it three times in a row.
While in the boys’ category, the Father O’Connel Science College, Minna, Niger, who were also the 2017 and 2018 boys champions, exhibited the stuff champions are made of to beat General Hassan Usman Katsina Unity College, Bauchi, 67-62 in a thrilling encounter to also make it three straight wins.
In the boys final, it was a thrilling match as General Hassan Usman Katsina Unity College Bauchi shot into the lead early in the day, leading by 54 points to 44 but their opponents turned the table in the third quarter to win by 67-62.
The finals of the competition which Nestle Nigeria Plc has been using in the past 20 years to develop Nigerian youths in all spheres of life, dunked of this year on June 30 and ended on July 4.
The Bayelsa team’s star player, Deggi Pius, won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award of the tournament in the girls’ category.
In the boys’ category, the MVP went to Farouk Isaiah of Father O’Connell Science College, Minna, Niger.
As usual, both winning schools, who were unarguably the best teams in the competition went home with their championships medals, trophy, and branded sports kits from Nestle Milo as well as N150, 000 each.
The second place winners received their medals, branded sports kits from Nestle Milo and N120, 000 for each team.
Dom Domingos College, Warri, Delta, were third place winners in the girls and the Kings International College, Ibadan, are winners for the boys. They got branded balls, medals and N100, 000 for each school.
The Head Coach of the Bayelsa team, Tony Nelson, said he was proud of his girls and that hard work had given them the edge over other teams.
“We are champions once again and wining the trophy three times in a row is something special.
“So far, so good, we have won the competition in the girls’ category six times ahead of any other team, indeed this is a remarkable achievement for us.
“We thank the school’s authorities for their support over the years and to their kind parents for trusting their kids to thrive in sports.
“We have to continue to work harder and continue to build future champions for Nigeria,’’ Nelson said.
Similarly, Niger counterpart, Emmanuel Tanko, said that winning the competition for the three straight times is a big blessing from God.
According to him, the team will continue to work hard and trust in God for future achievements.
“It is a remarkable achievement; I thank our school authorities for their support and also the sponsors, Nestle Milo, for giving the kids the opportunity to express their talents,’’’ Tanko said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that other schools which made it to the finals included the Government Secondary School, Numan, Adamawa; FAAN Secondary School, Calabar, Cross River and Government Secondary School, Karu, Abuja, in the girls’ category.
The Victorroti Private Secondary School, Abeokuta in Ogun, Brilliant College in Port Harcourt, Rivers, and General Murtala Mohammed College, Yola, participated in the boys’ category.
The Chief Executive Officer of Nestlé Nigeria, Mr Mauricio Alarcon, said the closing that the competition was the company’s commitment to promoting an active lifestyle among youth in Nigeria.
“We are happy to be at the forefront of sports development to promote an active lifestyle among youth in Nigeria.
“Through the championships, we are able to help the youth learn not only the game and value of sports, but also some values like discipline, friendship, determination, perseverance through hardship, courage, team work, leadership.
“These skills help them succeed in life both on and off the court,’’ he said.
NAN also reports that from humble beginning with 500 schools in 199, the competition reaches nearly 10,000 schools across Nigeria every year.
The Milo Basketball Championships is Nigeria’s only private company-sponsored school sports championships and it enjoys the collaboration of Nigeria Schools Sports Federation (NSSF) and the National Collegiate Sports Foundation (NCSF).
For 20 years, over 1.5 million students have participated directly in the in the competition with an annual average of 140,000 students.
The outstanding past winners are: St. Jude Girls Secondary School, Amarata, Bayelsa that have won it six times; Queen of the Rosary Secondary School, Gboko, Benue – four times and Nana College, Warri – four times in the girls’ category.
In the Boys category are: Government Secondary School, Minna, Niger – three times; Ahmaddiya College, Kano – times, and Wahab Folawiyo School, Lagos – times.
Some of the past winners have represented the country in international competition: Nana College Warri, Delta in Manchester, England in 2002; Queen of the Rosary College, Gboko, benue in Dubai in April 2007 Manchester in December 2007 also.
General Murtala Mohammed College, Yola, Adamawa represented Nigeria in Youth Fit Africa U-17 tournament in South Africa in September 2012 and won the competition.
It has also produce notable coaches and players as Emmanuel Biodun who played in the competition in 2004 and won the championships twice in 2017, 2018 and 2019 all as coach of the Niger team.
We also have Mohammed Abara who now coaches Niger Potters of Mina. Others are Dorcas Jiya who is currently in the U.S., Rebecca Monday who is schooling and playing in London and Phillip Agbo playing in Japan.
The Category Manger, Beverages, Nestle Nigeria Plc, Olufemi Akintola, said that Milo, would continue to support Nigerian sports at the grassroots toward building champions that will succeed not only in sports, but also in every sphere of life.
The company also announced that it would sponsor the U-16 boys’ team selected from just-concluded 2ist championships to the African Championship in Cape Verde later in the year.