All Malta players in action last week have one thing in common as the season draws to a close in most countries – They all play for the top seed in their league standings. With the National Junior Collegiate Athletics Association (NJCAA)’s regular season drawn to a close on Tuesday for the Otero Rattlers, the side was confirmed top seed for the post-season games. The Times of Malta Sportsdesk looks at Abela and other Maltese professionals plying their trade overseas in another segment of ‘Maltese Abroad’.
Sophie Abela and the Otero Rattlers took first seed this season as they finished their regular season games with a win against Trinidad State Junior College on Monday and a loss to Western Nebraska Community College on Wednesday.
Abela was mostly rested in the Monday 77-59 win against Trinidad State with only three minutes on court, but scored a joint-team high 11 points in 37 minutes during the team’s 55-75 loss to Western Nebraska. She also grabbed 10 boards in the process.
However, the main focus will be Thursday when the team hosts this year’s NJCAA Region IX Tournament after having placed first. The team faces Northwest College (Tip-off: 5.30PM USA/ 11.30PM Malta) in their first post-season game.
The Rattlers have been particularly dominant, especially with sophomore Abela on court for major minutes this season, reaching a 13-game winning streak at the end of the season before their loss in their last game away to Western Nebraska.
Speaking to the La Junta Tribune, OJC coach Landon Steele had said the side is super excited to play in the Final Eight.
“We’re super excited about that. If we have to go and win more games, then we want to go try to win more games. We’re trying to keep the momentum headed into the postseason and taking it one day at a time,” Steele said.
Abela will be the second Maltese player this season to make post-season in the US after Kristy Galea and the Alderson Broaddus Battlers made the Mountain East Conference (MEC) post-season tournament for the first time in their history.
Sam Deguara’s Tokyo Excellence continue to consolidate the top spot of the Japanese B3 league after another two wins last weekend against Kanazawa Samuraiz.
In their first game on Saturday, Deguara got a double-double with 28 points and 13 rebounds in 19 minutes as the side dominated all four quarters and won 110-92.
The next day, the Excellence crushed the Samuraiz 105-74 but Deguara was mostly rested, still scoring his only field goal attempt in around six minutes of play.
The Tokyo Excellence now host Kagoshima Rebnize on Friday and Saturday.
Aaron Falzon and the Leicester Riders retained the top spot in the British Basketball League (BBL), after losing one and winning the other of last week’s games.
On Tuesday, the side fell to a 54-80 loss against the Bristol Flyers, fellow Malta international and Falzon brother Tevin’s former side, with the Malta forward scoring two buckets from three-point range for six points, as well as grabbing eight rebounds in around 27 minutes.
The weekend game on Sunday saw the Riders beat the Manchester Giants 87-90. Falzon played for around 7minutes, scoring five points.
The Riders’ next game takes place on Wednesday as they face the Worchester Wolves (Tip-off: 7PM UK/8PM Malta).
Kurt Cassar and Janus Fabriano will feel hard-done-by as the recent spike in COVID-19 cases within the club forced them out of the Italian Cup last weekend with president Mario Di Salvoshowing his disappointment in an open letter to the Basketball Association as his players were held in quarantine.
The open letter read that the side had always been respectful of the rules and that following a test the previous Thursday, 11 members of the team had tested positive for the virus. However, he asked for rescheduling of the Cup.
“It is obvious that we cannot participate in the next Coppa Italia to be held on Friday 2 April,” the letter read.
“In a championship and a historical period like this I ask, given the situation that has affected our team and another team that was entitled to participate like us, to reschedule the Cup dispute.
“I remind you that it would be the second year in a row that we would not enjoy this milestone after efforts and sacrifices and after having conquered it on the field.
“I do not even hide from you that playing a competition like the Coppa Italia was the only stimulus I found in a year like this, perhaps because it was something that the year before we had conquered and experienced with our fans, for the enthusiasm that it was created in the city for the event, ready as always to follow and support us in Ravenna, but then we all know how it went, all thwarted by the arrival of the pandemic.”