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Second win for Mellieħa as Starlites remain unbeaten

Starlites’ Bryan Jefferson defends possession against Gżira Athleta duo Nathan Xuereb (left) and Dylan Causewell. Photo: Wally Galea

Mellieħa LIBERTAS 69
BUPA Luxol 47

(19-13, 14-8, 14-17, 22-9)

Mellieħa Libertas Spalding registered their second league win and first in regulation time, given that their first win had come following an overtime period, when they beat BUPA Luxol. The latter were handicapped with the unavailability of the their two professional import players, due to quarantine reasons.

At the same time, Mellieħa also missed one of their import players as Julius Brooks was merely a spectator as he is still fully recovering from an injury sustained in the previous league outing.

Yet, the northerners could rely on their Serb Vukasin Jandric whose offensive forays and 30 personal points made a substantial difference together with veteran Peter Shoults who returned to play for Mellieħa after a month’s absence.

Luxol tried their best to stay in the game and they did manage to stay close to their opponents until 12 minutes from time but here Mellieħa set off on a 16-point streak which closed off the match.

Led by guard Jean Paul Schembri, Luxol hit back at par in the opening quarter with hoops from Stefan Capello as well as youngsters Isaac Pace and Naz Buhagiar to neutralise Mellieha’s initial points from Jandric, Klemen Skrabec and Isaac Bonett.

Although Mellieħa opened a double-digit lead early in the second quarter, Luxol still did not falter, even if missing a number of free throws. A good start in the second half, with Philip Engelbert and the deputising Ousman Sangare sharing a 6-0 run, had the score at 27-33.

Ex-Luxol player Jandric was the main offensive weapon for Libertas but it was still a five-point game, 38-43, with two minutes to go to the end of the third rubber with both sides not exactly shooting with a high percentage, especially from three-point range.

With Skrabec winning a number of offensive boards, and Shoults finding his mark, Mellieħa reopened a double-digit lead and then Jandric added more hoops for a commanding 59-38 advantage.

The game was at this point decided and the last minutes were a mere formality with Mellieha now momentarily jumping to the fourth spot in the standings albeit with a game in hand.

Mellieħa: M. Falzon 2, V. Jandric 30, D. Camilleri 2, M. Fabri, I. Bonett 9, M. Gauci Montaldo 3, K. Skrabec 16, M. Azzopardi, P. Shoults 7.
Luxol: K. Gauci, P. Engelbert 11, N. Buhagiar 5, E. Caruana Montaldo, J.P. Schembri 6, L. Trapani, I. Pace 3, O. Sangare 4, S. Cappello 18.
Referees: B. Vassallo, K. Dworniczak, M. Hraisha.

Starlites Naxxar GiG 110
Gżira Athleta 82
(24-13, 23-22, 26-22, 37-25)

Starlites Naxxar GiG maintained their unbeaten league record when they made it a handful of consecutive wins after overcoming the opposition put forth by Gżira Athleta, who are the team with the most league appearances so far – three wins out of seven games.

Apart from the impressive long distance shooting percentage by the winners, as they netted 17 from 36, the game took an influential twist as from midway in the third quarter, when the Naxxar side seemed to push on the accelerator and with accurate shooting, started distancing themselves from their adversaries.

Starlites’ original twin import duo Travis McConico and Robert Ahearn set the side going with the game’s first three hoops followed by a trey by Matthew Scerri.

The victors also paraded a new foreign import in Bryan Jefferson, ex-NCAA division II with the University of Mary and with playing stints in Luxembourg and Australia over the last three seasons.

Jefferson contributed 22 points in the game, including three three-balls, as coach Paul Ferrante continuously rotated his three Americans with the latter contributing 56 points from the team’s tally.

Gżira Athleta also introduced another new American, David Labossiere, a 2019 graduate from Connecticut College in the NCAA Div III and who played in Luxembourg last season with Amicale.

Together with fellow countrymen Dylan Causwell and Deandre Parmer, Labossiere had Gżira 10-16 behind after eight minutes.

Treys from Scerri, Robert Bonnici and Jack Zammit moved Starlites to a
17-point lead but Gzira showed resilience and gradually eroded most of this deficit to 35-42, after a Nathan Xuereb trey, one minute from the end of the first half.

Although Starlites momentarily established another double-digit lead, Gżira again fought back eagerly as Matthew Gouder and Causwell made it a six-point game, 46-52 midway in the third quarter.

Gradually Starlites seemed to open their three-point arsenal whilst Athleta could not maintain the pace. Jefferson and Alec Felice Pace had three balls before the end of the third rubber and then there were five treys in two minutes during the last quarter as Starlites took full control of the game and Gżira Athleta now surely will be eager to regain their composure in the next matches.

Bonnici ended with half a dozen treys from Starlites’ impressive 17 three balls in the game with Jefferson and McConico both adding three and Scerri and Zammit also having a brace of long-distance shots.

The century mark was reached two minutes from the final buzzer as all players on the Starlites’ line-up managed to grab points in this win.

Luckily, with Starlites withholding the ball and renouncing the last play, an unexpected late Causwell steal and solitary basket did not lead to an unnecessary flare-up of tempers on the court.

Starlites: A. Felice Pace 3, J. Zammit 14, R. Bonnici 20, I. Felice Pace 2, M. Formosa 2, M. Scerri 11, B. Jefferson 22, T. McConico 28, A. Xuereb 2, R. Ahearn 6.
Gżira Athleta: D. Labossiere 10, D. Parmer 10, F. Mifsud Bonnici 3, L. Stefanovic, S. Galea 3, N. Xuereb 11, M. Gouder 9, S. Vincic 2, D. Causewell 34, N. Bukva.
Referees: B. Vassallo, K. Dworniczak, D. Torok.

Standings

Starlites Naxxar GiG (5/0); Gżira Athleta (3/4); BUPA Luxol (3/3); Mellieħa Libertas Spalding (2/4); Hibs/Depiro (2/3).

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