(18-22, 10-22, 28-19, 16-18)
The first rubber between Mellieħa and Depiro was a balanced one with Mellieħa enjoying the early leads with Julian Brooks working hard under both boards and Vukasin Jandric finding space to be effective at the offensive end.
A late 9-3 run helped Depiro to close off the first quarter with a four-point margin, 22-18, when they had their import duo grabbing most of the points.
In this regard, Depiro introduced new signing TJ Atwood in lieu of Marlon Sierra.
Atwood, a 6’6 swingman who played for Lamar University in the NCAA Division 1 and had signed a contract with the Danish top division side Svendborg Rabbits last summer, had a positive debut and even ended as the game’s top point-getter.
The 23-year-old from Beaumont, Texas, who had suffered a season-long injury during his junior year with the Lamar Cardinals, was also given the captain’s duties on the day by Depiro who had coach James Bamfield not available due to compulsory quarantine after returning from the UK.
The first half of the second quarter continued at par but then, an 11-0 streak distanced the Mtarfa side from Mellieħa as a double digit-margin was established, 39-23.
This margin was consistent for almost 10 minutes of play even though Mellieħa, who were again missing Peter Shoults but introduced veteran David Camilleri, improved in their composure on the court.
Late in the third quarter, hoops from Mirco Azzopardi and Isaac Bonett and a Camilleri trey a minute later had the northerners reduce the margin to 56-63 with the last quarter left to play.
Christos Kousidis’ side suffered a setback when Brooks had to leave the game injured just when the side was searching for a comeback.
Initially Depiro, who had Kurt Xuereb missing, took advantage and a Cliff Thomas close range hoop and an Andy Attard trey put them back 70-61 ahead.
Yet the game was still on as Mellieħa were steadfast and had a nine-point run to level the score with three minutes remaining on the clock.
However, in the next two minutes Mellieħa’s scoring machine dried up and a brace of Thomas’ hoops, around an Atwood positive finish and a game-ending Miguel Brincat three-ball, ascertained Depiro’s second win.
Depiro momentarily joined the same opponents as well as Luxol and Gżira Athleta in the standings with two wins.
Mellieħa: A. Schembri, M. Falzon 4, V. Jandric 20, D. Camilleri 8, M. Fabri, I. Bonett 12, C. Briffa, M. Gauci Montaldo, K. Skrabec, J. Brooks 16, M. Azzopardi 12.
Depiro: TJ Attwood 34, C. Thomas 24, D. Pisani, A. Attard 3, N. Grech 5, D. Farrugia 3, K. Caruana 1, M. Brincat 6, M. Mallia 5.
Referees: B. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosavljevic, L. Camilleri.
BUPA Luxol 78
Gżira Athleta 72
(18-14, 16-14, 19-19, 25-25)
BUPA Luxol moved up a game behind leaders Starlites Naxxar after beating Gżira Athleta after a balanced match.
The Maroons had to do without the services of one of their import players, Deandre Parmer, who has not fully recovered from the shoulder injury sustained last month.
The first quarter had both teams respectively enjoying momentary leads.
A mid-quarter six-point streak, with baskets from Kyree Elder, Arsenio Arrington and Isaac Pace, had Luxol opening a 14-11 lead but Athleta levelled back shortly afterwards through free throws from local duo Nathan Xuereb and Matthew Gouder.
However, it was Luxol who managed to close off the first rubber with a two-basket lead after a bucket from Arrington.
An early brace of baskets from Elder helped Luxol to extend the margin.
Despite continuous efforts from Dylan Causwell, Luxol still managed to maintain this lead for a 34-28 half-time score.
Once again, Luxol had a better start to a quarter when play restarted in the second half as Elder and Jean Paul Schembri hoops opened a double-digit Luxol lead.
Causwell continued creating headaches for the Violets defence at the other end and then treys from the same player as well as two such long-distance shots from Luca Stefanovic reopened the game early in the last quarter.
Gżira Athleta were now showing the best play on the court and an 8-0 run moved them to a 60-55 lead.
A time-out helped Luxol to recoup their focus and stop Gzira’s positive streak and a 10-0 counter run in three minutes of play had Duncan Fenech’s side return ahead for 69-63.
Gżira Athleta were, however, not done away with as Causwell spearheaded a late rally with two treys and then another three ball from Gouder made it a tight two point game, 72-74, in the last minute with Luxol also losing Elder on fouls whilst Athleta had Xuereb limping off with a leg injury.
Luxol ascertained the win with late free throws as Athleta tried to stop the clock to regain possession.
Luxol: K. Gauci, N. Buhagiar 8, E. Caruana Montaldo, JP Schembri 9, L. Trapani, I. Pace 4, K. Elder 28, P. Engelbert, A. Arrington 21, S. Capello 8.
Gżira Athleta: D. Parmer, F. Mifsud Bonnici, P. Cefai, L. Stefanovic 8, S. Galea 3, N. Xuereb 17, M. Gouder 10, I. Xuereb, S. Vincic, D. Causwell 34, N. Buvka.
Referees: B. Vassallo, G. Barbara, D. Torok.
Starlites Naxxar GiG 4/0; BUPA Luxol 3/2; Hibernians 2/3; Gżira Athleta 2/3; Depiro 2/2; Mellieħa Libertas Spalding 1/4.