BUPA Luxol 76
(18-19, 23-24, 22-16, 23-17)
A 10-0 streak midway in the final quarter was probably the determining factor in this balanced encounter which had Hibs being the only team to close off their first round of play, given the fact that some category matches have been postponed in the past weeks.
This win moved the Paolites to second spot in the standings, with two wins, level with Luxol as well as Gżira Athleta, albeit with a game in hand.
Starlites Naxxar, who had their game against Depiro postponed in the weekend, remain on top of the standings with four straight wins.
The first half was characterized by various lead changes as the two sides replied constantly to each other with a four-point margin being the largest at both ends.
After Luxol’s centre Aresenio Arrington set the game going with the first bucket on the day, his team-mate Kyree Elder began pouring in the baskets to give his side the first early lead.
A Nikola Vasovic trey and basket around a David Bugeja basket momentarily overturned the score, only for Luxol to quickly bounce back with Jean Paul Schembri also grabbing a three-ball followed by a bucket.
It was still open play on both sides in the second quarter, including a number of treys. Vasovic and Keith Dimech shared a brace of such long-distance shots whilst guard Paul Attard added another for Hibs, Elder – surpassing 40 points on the day – had a tris and Juan Cefai another two three-balls as Luxol managed to hold on to a 43-41 half-time lead.
With the Violets, who had beaten Hibs a few days earlier in the KO quarter finals, not keeping their momentum when play restarted, it was Hibs who registered an early 13-2 run as they started dominating the defensive boards and centre Ivan Demcesen being a menace for his opponents with his height advantage.
A Marko Matijevic hoop, in the first moments of the last quarter, had Hibs enjoying a 67-59 lead but Luxol managed to get back into the game even if the next four minutes of play saw a drought from action baskets with the only points coming from the charity line.
Six free throws from eight saw Duncan Fenech’s side make it a 65-69 game.
But here, Hibs hit back in a strong manner and 10 points on the trot gave them an important somewhat late lead.
Elder tried to inspire his side with a poker of baskets but Hibs, who now will await the arrival of foreign imports during the festive break, did not let go of their lead and definitely closed the game with late Demcesen close-range actions.
Hibs: N. Cassar, P. Attard 3, D. Bugeja 7, K. Caruana, L. Farrugia 2, K. Dimech 18, N. Vasovic 22, A. Axiaq 6, M. Matijevic 9, M. Attard, I. Demcesen 19.
Luxol: J. Cefai 7, K. Gauci, N. Buhagiar, E. Caruana Montaldo, J.P. Schembri 5, L. Trapani, I. Pace, K. Elder 44, S. Opejlevic 2, A. Arrington 18, S. Cappello.
Referees: B. Vassallo, G. Barbara, L. Camilleri.
Gżira Athleta 94
Mellieħa Libertas Spalding 73
(21-14, 22-27, 19-10, 32-22)
The final scoreline might lead some to think this was a totally comfortable win for Gżira Athleta but this second league victory, at the end fully merited and clear, materialised in the second half of the game. Gżira’s depth of players and superior fitness proved crucial with Mellieħa not able to keep their positive first-half momentum.
Athleta, donning a new uniform, albeit not so light coloured, set off on a high note with a trio of Matthew Gouder hoops for an early 10-4 lead.
Gradually Mellieħa started getting more in the picture.
Led for the first time by their new play caller Christos Kousidis they had
Peter Shoults missing as the latter seemed to have had a spat with the club management.
However, led by Julius Brooks, who worked hard in the game even if many times the ball did not arrive to him when in ideal positioning, and the shooting threat of Vukasin Jandric, the northeners had their good moments and even re-opened the game with an 8-0 run early in the second half.
Gżira were running quick offences at this stage but were still pouring in the points with Dedrian Parmer being a menace to his defenders. The Gżira combo guard/forward unfortunately had a shoulder injury in the last quarter and had to leave the game.
After the interval, a Jandric hoop made it a tied 43-43 game but here, Gżira started distancing themselves from their opponents also potting two respective mini streaks of six and seven points to open a double-digit lead, 62-51, with one quarter to the final buzzer.
Mellieħa’s reaction did not materialise as they did not keep up with the tempo and renounced set plays whilst Gżira kept moving on clearly demonstrating their technical superiority.
Gżira centre Dylan Causwell continued to pound the opponents’ boards and ended with over 20 personal points, similar to Parmer as well as Gouder with the latter having a consistent positive offensive contribution.
In the late stages of the match, Mellieħa improved their tally with a late 11-0 run.
Despite the loss, they had some positive flashes in the game and could take the opportunity of the coming break to work on the side.
Gżira Athleta: D. Parmer 27, F. Mifsud Bonnici 9, P. Cefai, L. Stefanovic, S. Galea 2, N. Xuereb 11, M. Gouder 21, I. Xuereb, S. Vincic, D. Causewell 24, N. Bukva.
Mellieħa: A. Schembri 3, V. Jandric 23, M. Falzon 8, I. Bonett 9, C. Briffa, M. Gauci Montaldo, K. Skrabec, J. Brooks 30, M. Azzopardi.
Referees: B. Vassallo, G. Barbara, L. Camilleri.
Starlites Naxxar GiG 4/0; Hibs 2/3, BUPA Luxol, Gzira Athleta 2/2; Mellieħa 1/3; Depiro 1/2.
Hibs vs Mellieħa Libertas Spalding 15.45
Gżira Athleta vs Depiro 13.30
BUPA Luxol vs Starlites GiG 15.45