Laiser Hill hunt for glory as St Anthony’s relish return to Rift Valley region championships

METROPOLITAN ACADEMY 2016 Upper Hill's Samora Odhiambo, left of Nairobi county skip past Koki Rior of Laiser Hill during Metropolitan games at Laiser Hill Academy in Kajiado on saturday. PHOTO: JONAH ONYANGO/STANDARD.

They ruled secondary school boys' basketball in Rift Valley, nationally, and East Africa region.

A true definition of champions is what they were. They have seven East Africa titles and five national trophies to show for the tag.

They are Laiser Hill Academy from Kajiado County. They were once champions, but are now struggling to reclaim their lost glory.

The last time they excelled was in 2012, when they won their fifth national and seventh East Africa titles in Bujumbura, Burundi. But a year later, their troubles checked in when Kajiado, which was part of Rift Valley, was merged with Nairobi, Machakos, and Makueni counties to form the Metropolitan Region.

In their new home, competition was stiff. They were battered. They were bullied. They were bruised. For the next four years, they were forced to play second fiddle to Upper Hill School of Nairobi. They never went past the regional games.

But today they return to Rift Valley, nursing hopes of going back to the national games and possibly qualifying for the East Africa games.

Having dominated Rift Valley for 10 years from 2002 to 2012, they are determined to leave a mark in the games. Laiser Hill captain Sheldon Ouma said they intend to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors.

"Competition was stiff against Nairobi teams and although we don't expect less from Rift Valley, we remain optimistic of ruling the region," Ouma said.

However, he warned his teammates that it is going to be tougher because other schools have also improved, singling out Kapenguria Boys, who are also making a return to the region.

"We are gearing up for battle because other schools are also very good. Kapenguria are now a force to reckon with in the sport and the favourites at the games."

The two are in pool C together with St Joseph's Kitale and Uasin Gishu High School. Kapenguria, Turkana, and St Joseph's Kitale return to Rift Valley from the defunct Nzoia Region.

Also to watch out for in the region will be the boys' hockey contest, where returnees St Anthony's Kitale will renew their rivalry with two-time national champions Narok High.

Narok came to the limelight after the departure of former East Africa winners, St Anthony's, and the formation of Mau Region, which has reverted to its old provincial boundary.

Narok have dominated the region since 2012, winning four trophies and lifting the national titles in 2014 and 2015. St Anthony's, on the other hand, struggled to outshine giants Friends School Kamusinga in their new home, Nzoia, and missed the 2013 and 2014 national games.

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