The NCSM is Liberia’s premium sporting competition since its inception 64 years ago, even though there have been series of pauses due to some political crisis or monetary issues.
Accordingly, in the football version, Sinoeand River Cess Counties were surprised qualifiers over giants Grand Bassa and Margibi Counties after drawing their respective matches at the Doris Williams Sports Pitch in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
The “Greenville boys” went into the game against Bassa needing just a draw to qualify and did just that from kick off to the final whistle.
In fact, the “Sinoeans” created the best opportunities of the game from start to finish, while the “Gbezohn boys,” who were in a must win situation, performed poorly from midfield to attack.
The result means Grand Bassa, who is the second his carrier with three trophies in the football category, has failed to qualify from the group stage three times in succession under Coach Daniel Baryogar and since the administration of Superintendent Janjay Baikpeh.
In the other match of the group, two-time champion River Cess qualified for the first time since 12 years with a draw against Margibi County that took them on top of the group.
Having drawn goalless with Bassa and beaten Sinoe 2-1 in her first opening matches, the boys of Cestos went into the match as leaders of Group A and maintained just that to the end.
It was a power-packed encounter with Margibi pushing to earn the needed victory, while the Cestos boys were occasionally dangerous on the counter and missed several chances in punishing the “Gibi Boys.”
Over to Group B, joint highest carrier Nimba County defied all odds to beat Bong County 1-0 to sail through the next stage of the competition.
The Nimbaians needed all three points to qualify and did just that at the expense of the Bongese who needed at least a draw.
Elsewhere in Group C, host Maryland County qualified for the quarters with a 2-1 win of Grand Gedeh County at the Harper Sports Pitch, while joint highest winner Grand Kru defeated the group’s underdog River Gee 2-0.
River Gee, a 2009 finalist of the competition went into the match hopeless of qualifying after losing her two opening matches to Grand Gedeh and Maryland respectively.
And finally, a 1-0 victory over host Grand Cape Mount County was not enough for Montserrado County in Group D to come to town as the final slot was won by Bomi County who left it late to beat group winner Gbarpolu 1-0.
In the kickball category, defending champion Grand Bassa County enjoyed a comfortable 8-0 home win over Sinoe County to finish second to last season finalists Margibi County, who also beat River Cess 9-6 homes.
Bong County turned things in her favor by beating Nimba 5-2 homes in Voinjama to finish two points behind host Lofa.
Despite beating Maryland County 6-5 homes, Grand Gedeh still failed to make it to the last eight of the competition.
River Gee squared Grand Kru 7-6 homes, but the two counties qualified to the next stage of the tournament.
Montserrado and Bomi Counties are the two qualifiers in Group D.