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Play-offs race heats up

Gżira’s Dylan Causewell (centre) goes for the basket against Hibs. Photo: Wally Galea

Hibernians 99
Gżira Athleta 108

(16-29, 27-22, 27-30, 29-27)

After a high-scoring game, Gżira Athleta managed to achieve the double over Hibernians, a fact that might be influential should there be ties in the standings at the end of the regular season.

This was Gżira’s fourth win from eight games while Hibs remain with three wins from seven outings, sharing the third spot in the standings with Luxol.

Although David Bugeja and Mason Vires potted very early points for Hibs, it was Gżira Athleta who had the first major run in the game with a streak of nine points with five off guard Francesco Mifsud Bonnici and other contributions from Nathan Xuereb and Dedrian Parmer.

The Paolites replied through Luca Tardito and Anton Axiaq. But once again Gżira showed more precision with a 15-0 run as Matthew Gouder and Dylan Causwell also opened their personal tally and a double-digit margin was established between the sides.

Hibs introduced tall centre Ivan Demcesen and the latter grabbed four early second-quarter hoops with Causwell almost doing the same at the opposite end.

Yet, midway in the second rubber, Athleta extended their lead when they had another positive stretch in a 10-0 streak to surge 47-27 ahead, a considerable lead so early in the game.

Hibs reacted and led by their import guard Vires, they managed to reduce the margin to eight points by the interval. Their comeback moved further in the second half as treys from Vires and Nikola Vasovic had them just a three-ball away, 62-65.

In the last part of the third quarter, Gżira Athleta seemed to regain their momentum and managed to surpass their opponents’ efforts and a series of hoops from Causwell, Xuereb and Parmer had them back in a double-digit lead, 81-70, with one quarter to play.

Hibs did try to claw back into the game but their positive offensive plays were immediately neutralized at the opposite end until a 7-0 run, three minutes from the buzzer not only had Gżira surpass the century mark but also close off the game.

Time was now in the victors’ favour with Hibs reducing the final margin late on with three consecutive hoops.

Hibs: M. Vires 32, P. Attard, D. Bugeja 12, L. Farrugia 3, K. Dimech 3, N. Cassar, N. Vasovic 14, A. Axiaq 5, M. Matijevic, L. Tardito 11, M. Attard, I. Demcesen 19.
GŻIRA Athleta: D. Labossiere 2, D. Parmer 18, F. Mifsud Bonnici 11, L. Stefanovic, S. Galea, N. Xuereb 19, M. Gouder 25, I. Xuereb, S. Vincic, D. Causewell 33, N. Bukva.
Refs: B. Vassallo, K. Dworniczak, M. Hraisha.

BUPA Luxol 75
Depiro 78
(22-21, 12-24, 21-15, 20-18)

This game resulted in a close affair which was decided in the final moments with Depiro practically re-opening the tussle for the second to fourth spots for the play-offs after managing to overcome Luxol with a tight margin.

Depiro now move to three wins like Luxol and Hibs but have a game in hand.

In direct encounters, Luxol still held the upperhand vis-à-vis Depiro as they had won with a 19-point margin in the first round.

Yet the final rounds of play in the BOV Men League are surely going to be interesting given most of the teams are in with a good chance for the play-offs.

The game immediately set off on a balanced note with Kyree Elder’s points helping Luxol to an early lead until treys from Nicholas Grech and Kieron Caruana helped Depiro for a momentary minimum lead halfway in the first quarter.

However, it was again Luxol who pipped in front with a marginal 22-21 lead by the end of the first rubber as Arsenio Arrington and Stefan Capello grabbed close distance shots together with a Jean Paul Schembri late hoop.

A 10-0 streak, including a trey from Caruana and hoops from the import duo TJ Atwood and Cliff Thomas, moved Depiro to their first major lead in the game forcing a Luxol time-out.

The Violets subsequently did improve but Depiro still held strong with treys from their young duo Miguel Mallia and Miguel Brincat moving them to a 45-34 interval lead.

A bright mid-third quarter patch, through a series of buckets from Elder and Arrington, had Luxol reopen the encounter to a two-point game, 54-56, as Depiro also missed a number of free throws.

The game’s tempo remained consistent for the next ten minutes with Luxol then capitalising on further missed free throws by their opponents to register a seven-point streak to move 74-70 ahead with less than two minutes to the final buzzer.

Two Arrington hoops brought the game at par going into the final minute. Then, with Luxol not scoring in their third consecutive offence, Andy Attard scored a mid-range shot.

Elder was fouled at the opposite end with Luxol demanding a goal tend after the foul but the ball was judged still in its upward flight.

From the charity line, Elder banked in one shot from two and then Atwood suffered a late unsportsmanlike foul and scored two free throws for 78-75.

Caruana could have closed the game but missed two free throws for Depiro allowing Luxol the opportunity for a late, desperate attempt which missed the mark to the joy of the Depiro clan.

BUPA Luxol: J. Cefai, K. Gauci, P. Engelbert, N. Buhagiar, E. Caruana Montaldo, JP Schembri 11, L. Trapani, K. Elder 35, S. Ousman, A. Arrington 20, S. Cappello 9.
Depiro: TJ Atwood 26, C. Thomas 12, M. Debattista, A. Attard 2, N. Grech 8, K. Caruana 14, M. Brincat 6, M. Mallia 10, A. Chomo, L. Vella.
Refs: K. Dworniczak, I. Simic, V. Nikolic.

Mellieħa Libertas Spalding 49
Starlites Naxxar GiG 101
(11-31, 13-26, 7-26, 18-18)

A strong start to the game paved the way for Starlites’ continued run of wins in the league and the second over Mellieħa Libertas Spalding after the 90-68 victory in the first round.

Travis McConico had an early hot hand and his baskets, after an Alec Felice Pace starting hoop, spearheaded Starlites to the first game lead, 11-5.

Mellieħa tried their best when shorn of the services of their Serb Vukasin Jandric (quarantine) as well as Peter Shoults (injury) for this match.

Next up for the Naxxar side was Bryan Jefferson who contributed six points in an 11-0 run and despite Mellieħa’s reply from the duo on loan from the same Starlites, Mirco Azzopardi and Miguel Falzon, it was Starlites who had a comfortable 31-11 lead after the first quarter.

Even though Julius Brooks tried to instigate his side in the second quarter, it was still Starlites who had the upper edge as a 11-0 run further extended their lead and then the game was literally over at the start of the second half when the Naxxar side kept their opponents at bay and potted a staggering 22-0 run.

Mellieħa’s most consistent moments offensively came in the last quarter but by then the game was over. Starlites also reached the century mark with a late Alec Felice Pace hoop.

Mellieħa need to forget this performance and must win their remaining two matches in the regular season if they want to keep their play-offs hopes alive.

Mellieħa: A. Schembri, M. Falzon 6, V. Jandric, D. Camilleri 2, M. Fabri 3, I. Bonett 8, M. Gauci Montaldo, K. Skrabec 2, J. Brooks 14, M. Azzopardi 14.
Starlites: A. Felice Pace 14, J. Zammit 8, R. Bonnici 12, I. Felice Pace 6, M. Formosa, M. Scerri 6, R. Carabott, B. Jefferson 24, T. McConico 22, R. Ahearn 9.
Refs: K. Dworniczak, I. Simic, M. Hraisha.

Standings

Starlites Naxxar GiG 6/0; Gżira Athleta 4/4; BUPA Luxol/Hibs 3/4; Mellieħa Libertas Spalding 2/6; Depiro 3/3.

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