Game day 3 led to Gżira Athleta’s first win of the season to form a poker of teams all with one win while Starlites Naxxar GiG consolidated their unbeaten top position in the standings with BUPA Luxol firmly at their heels as the Violets registered their second consecutive win.
Starlites Naxxar GiG 90
Mellieħa Libertas Spalding 68
(22-20, 15-8, 23-22, 30-18)
An early second quarter 11-0 run swayed the game in Starlites’ favour as the Naxxar side opened a double-digit lead, piling pressure on Mellieħa who tried hard to recover this deficit but could never achieve their goal with Starlites then making sure of the victory when they extended their lead in the last quarter.
Mellieħa paraded their new import player, Julius Brooks, a 30-year-old American from Greensboro who played in Finland last season.
It was Brooks who notched the northerners’ first hoop in the game as they battled the first ten minutes at par with their opponents with Vukasin Jandric and Peter Shoults pouring the points with the same Brooks.
Starlites had a marginal two point lead after the first quarter but then started having better shooting percentages from inside the arc and set off the second with a Matthew Scerri hoop followed by seven points off Bobby Ahearn, who started the game from the bench, and then an Alec Felice Pace basket moved them to a 33-20 lead.
Isaac Bonett got Mellieħa’s first points after a seven-minute point drought and several turnovers. Subsequently, early second half hoops from the same Bonett as well as Brooks moved Mellieħa momentarily back to just five points away, 32-37. But Starlites were quick to reply as Felice Pace, Ryan Carabott and Travis McConico re-established a double-digit lead.
Mellieħa’s hopes were further thwarted at the start of the final quarter when Starlites hit them with a 6-0 streak and then the Naxxar side also took the opportunity to extend their lead further in the closing minutes when Mellieħa, who had set off the season with an overtime win over Hibs, had clearly threw in the towel.
Starlites: A. Felice Pace 23, J. Zammit 4, R. Bonnici 6, I. Felice Pace 4, M. Fabri, M. Vella, M. Scerri 9, R. Carabott 12, T. McConico 17, A. Xuereb, R. Ahearn 15.
Mellieħa: A. Schembri 4, V. Jandric 17, M. Falzon 4, I. Bonett 9, C. Briffa, M. Gauci Montaldo, N. Stojanovski 2, K. Skrabec, J. Brooks 18, P. Shoults 14.
Referees: B. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosavljevic, D. Torok.
BUPA Luxol 76
(8-16, 23-20, 11-21, 13-19)
This game got off to a slow start with Luxol eventually getting the first lead as Kyree Elder immediately started indicating that he was on song on the shooting front with 11 straight initial points.
Early second quarter points from Arsenio Arrington and a trey from Juan Cefai had Luxol 23-10 ahead but here Depiro started finding their ground and a 10-0 streak, including a Miguel Brincat three-ball and a brace of Marlon Sierra floaters, had them clearly back in the game.
An and-one play from Andy Attard made it a momentarily two-point game but five free throws from Elder helped Luxol to a 36-31 interval lead.
Like the first quarter, Depiro again had a slow start after the interval and must improve on their long-range percentages. Luxol took the opportunity to again open a double-digit lead with Arrington notching a poker of close-range shots and later a Jean Paul Schembri trey had the score at 57-38.
Depiro, instigated by their play caller James Bamfield, still battled on and two Cliff Thomas under the basket hoops, another two treys from Brincat and an energetic play from Adam Chomo reduced the margin.
But Luxol here closed off the game for good when Elder was on fire and potted a complete 12-0 run so as to move Duncan Fenech’s side to second spot in the standings.
Depiro: M. Sierra 16, C. Thomas 8, D. Pisani, A. Attard 5, N. Grech, D. Farrugia, K. Xuereb 6, M. Borg, M. Brincat 11, M. Mallia, A. Chomo 9, M. Agius.
Luxol: J. Cefai 3, K. Gauci, A. Ciotti, N. Buhagiar, E. Caruana Montaldo, J.P. Schembri 9, L. Trapani, I. Pace, K. Elder 39, S. Opejlevic, A. Arrington 18, S. Cappello 7.
Referees: B. Vassallo, G. Barbara, I.
Gżira Athleta 93
(21-26, 16-16, 33-20, 23-18)
After going in for the interval trailing by five points, Gżira Athleta produced a superior third quarter feat and when they followed it with the fourth quarter’s first seven points, they piled enormous pressure on Hibs as by then there were 15 points separating the two sides, 77-62, with seven minutes to the final buzzer.
A highly energetic and motivated performance by Dylan Causwell, especially after the change of ends, steered Gżira Athleta towards their first seasonal win.
Yet, it was Hibs who set off the game on the right foot with Nikola Vasovic, who was accurate for most of the game, David Bugeja and Keith Dimech moving the Paolites to an early lead which was extended late in the first quarter when Ivan Demcesen came off the bench and used his height superiority under the boards.
A ten-point streak moved Hibs to a maximum double-digit lead, 36-24, with Athleta, even if missing a number of free throws, managing to reduce the margin to five points at the interval with Dedrian Parmer, Nathan Xuereb and Matthew Gouder, all ending with double figures, adding to Causwell’s points.
Gżira were quick off the blocks in the second half and a 12-2 run moved them to a 54-47 lead.
Hibs did well to come back to just two points away. But with Causwell setting the pace, Athleta remained in front and then opened a double-digit lead, 77-62, early in the final quarter.
Hibs tried to recoup their efforts and Demcesen scored a handful of hoops to make it 76-81 but again Causwell notched important buckets and final contributions from Parmer and Xuereb ascertained Gżira Athleta’s success.
Gżira Athleta: D. Causewell 41, D. Parmer 20, N. Bukva, F. Mifsud Bonnici 2, P. Cefai, L. Stefanovic 3, S. Galea, N. Xuereb 15, M. Gouder 12, S. Vincic, R. Abela.
Hibs: P. Attard, D. Bugeja 14, K. Caruana 3, L. Farrugia 3, K. Dimech 7, N. Vasovic 23, A. Axiaq 2, M. Matijevic 2, N. Cassar, M. Attard, I. Demcesen 26.
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, K. Dworniczak, V. Nikolic.
Standings: Starlites Naxxar GiG (3/0); BUPA Luxol (2/1); Hibs, Gżira Athleta, Depiro, Mellieha Libertas Spalding (1/2).
DECEMBER 5: Hibs vs Starlites Naxxar GiG.
DECEMBER 6: Mellieħa Libertas Spalding vs Depiro; BUPA Luxol vs Gżira Athleta.