Starlites Naxxar GiG 87
(13-12, 29-26, 21-23, 24-25)
After a first-round encounter ending with a marginal 82-80 win for Starlites Naxxar GiG, a last second five-metre lateral court buzzer beater by Starlites’ Bryan Jefferson drowned Hibs’ hopes of achieving a late win over the unbeaten league leaders in this weekend’s game.
In fact, the Paolites had staged a comeback after trailing with double digits and even had overturned the score with two late free throws, three seconds from time, from Mason Vries.
Yet, speaking of free throws, this game ending is a clear example of how important a simple free throw and point made or missed is in the game of basketball as it could determine a game, given also that Starlites had missed a brace of shots from the charity line just eight seconds from the game buzzer.
The first quarter was a low scoring one at both ends but this out rightly changed in the second quarter.
Travis McConico, Jefferson and Alec Felice Pace helped Starlites to open a 31-22 lead which was then extended to 42-30, two minutes from the interval.
Hibs, however, showed character and they managed to quickly claw themselves back into the game to 53-55 after a Vires bucket and a Nikola Vasovic three-ball.
An 8-2 run momentarily gave more breathing space to Starlites but it was back to an open, tied game in the first moment of the last quarter at 63-63 after Vires and David Bugeja were on target for Hibs.
The lead exchanged hands continuously in the next minutes and it all boiled down to the last minute where back to back hoops by Jefferson and Felice Pace gave an 85-81 lead to the leaders with Vires replying with a trey at the other end.
Hibs resorted to a foul in the dying seconds, risking the resultant free throws and this risk
almost paid up the whole dividends as after Starlites missed the two free throws, Vires was fouled, at the opposite end, with three seconds to go. The latter coolly banged in the two free throws, forcing Starlites to make use of their last time out to also move the ball up the court.
Play restarted and Jefferson received the ball on the side and hit a game winning basket to the joy of his team whilst Hibs had to bow down after they almost had victory at the tip of their fingers.
The Paolites are now are under pressure in their last league games against Luxol and Depiro respectively.
Starlites: A. Felice Pace 16, J. Zammit 4, R. Bonnici 4, M. Scerri 3, R. Carabott 2, B. Jefferson 30, T. McConico 23, M. Palmier, R. Ahearn 5.
Hibs: M. Vires 29, P. Attard, D. Bugeja 20, L. Farrugia 4, K. Dimech 3, N. Vasovic 11, A. Axiaq 6, M. Matijevic, L. Tardito 5, I. Demcesen 8.
Referees: B. Vassallo, K. Dworniczak, M. Hraisha.
(20-18, 8-12, 21-9, 23-15)
Depiro achieved an important win to aid their hopes of booking a spot in the play-offs whilst ending the remaining Mellieħa hopes in the same race for the post-regular season.
Mellieħa Libertas Spalding did have a good first half but then seemingly fizzled out in the second half where Depiro took the edge and, after opening a double digit lead, managed to control the game’s tempo right to the final buzzer.
Both sides clearly knew the importance of the game from the initial tip-off, the first quarter ending almost at par with Depiro having offensive contributions from Adam Chomo, who came off the bench, and even treys from Miguel Brincat and Nicholas Grech.
Mellieħa had initial positive forays from Peter Shoults and Isaac Bonett and then from the duo Julius Brooks and Vukasin Jandric, who started the game on the substitute bench.
Although Depiro set off with a 6-0 run in the second quarter, Mellieħa then had their best moment as they registered a 12-point streak to go 30-26 ahead.
The game started swaying Depiro’s side after two respective 7-0 runs in the third quarter with TJ Atwood and Cliff Thomas adding more to their personal tally and Kieron Caruana connecting from downtown. With one quarter to go, there were ten points separating the two sides, 49-39.
Mellieħa’s reaction was met with resilience by Depiro as the latter started immediately replying to the northerners buckets and then, midway in the final rubber, a 9-0 run, closed off all the remaining Mellieħa hopes as Depiro ascertained themselves of their fourth win in the league and their second over Mellieħa after an 81-72 victory some weeks ago.
Depiro: T.J. Attwood 24, C. Thomas 6, A. Chomo 8, A. Attard 2, N. Grech 3, D. Farrugia 6, K. Caruana 11, M. Brincat 10, M. Mallia 2, M. Debattista, L. Vella.
Mellieħa: A. Schembri, M. Falzon 2, V. Jandric 7, M. Fabri, I. Bonett 17, M. Gauci Montaldo, K. Skrabec, J. Brooks 6, M. Azzopardi 8, P. Shoults 14.
Referees: B. Vassallo, K. Dworniczak, V. Nikolic
Gżira Athleta 89
BUPA Luxol 73
(14-24, 30-21, 23-20, 22-8)
Gżira Athleta edged closer to the play-offs after registering their fifth league win and also making amends to a 78-72 first-round loss suffered against BUPA Luxol.
Athleta have now also got the upper hand as regards the direct encounters score balance should the two sides end the regular season on equal points in the standings.
Although still to recover a game, the pressure is now on Luxol in their aims to book a play-off spot as their next two matches, tomorrow against Starlites and then against Hibs added further in importance.
The Violets set off on a good note and even managed to open a remarkable 29-14 lead after 12 minutes of play with Kyree Elder leading the team’s offensive ploys assisted by buckets from Arsenio Arrington and Stefan Capello and an early Jean Paul Schembri trey.
The momentum changed from here till the half time buzzer as Gżira Athleta, who were sporadic in the early stages, started finding more paths to the opponents’ basket, mainly through David Labossiere.
It was a tight one-point game at the interval, 45-44, for the St Andrews’ side who could not maintain the same tempo late in the game where the side’s lack of player depth seemed obvious.
A series of positive conclusions from Francesco Mifsud Bonnici, who was later joined by local team-mates Matthew Gouder and Nathan Xuereb, started opening up a very small, but consistent, lead for Gżira with Luxol managing, up the end of third quarter to keep at arm’s length for a marginal 67-65 Gżira lead with ten minutes to go.
Treys from Mifsud Bonnici and Xuereb moved Gżira to a double-digit lead halfway in the last rubber with Luxol not managing to keep up the rhythm and their shooting percentage dipped a bit.
Gżira continued being almost perfect from the free throw line and continuing to have the upper edge in rebounds and ascertained themselves of the win and now will face Mellieħa in their last remaining game in the regular season.
Athleta: D. Labossiere 19, D. Parmer 7, F. Mifsud Bonnici 20, L. Stefanovic, S. Galea, N. Xuereb 16, M. Gouder 20, I. Xuereb, D. Causewell 7, N. Bukva.
Luxol: J. Cefai, K. Gauci, P. Engelbert, N. Buhagiar, E. Caruana Montaldo, J.P. Schembri 8, L. Trapani, K. Elder 31, A. Arrington 25, S. Cappello 9.
Referees: B. Vassallo, K. Dworniczak, D. Torok.
Starlites Naxxar GiG 8/0; Gżira Athleta 5/4; Depiro 4/4; Hibs, BUPA Luxol 3/5; Mellieħa Libertas Spalding 2/7.