Malta cruised past lowly Andorra in their opening Group A game of the FIBA European Championship for small countries on Wednesday.
In a dominant display up and down the court where all but one player of the Malta roster scored, the Malta women put aside the fact that this is possibly one of the youngest selections the Malta Basketball Association (MBA) has ever sent up, and blew out an Andorra side who had just come off a 104-33 bruising against Ireland on Tuesday. This was no different as Malta won the game 79-30 After the last buzzer.
High-scoring duo Stephanie de Martino and Josephine Grima lead the charge with 20 points and 14 respectively, with Kristy Galea adding another ten points as the team’s highest-scoring players on the day.
Grima won the opening tip and Malta got their first points through De Martino soon after. It became a one-sided affair in the first quarter as Malta went on a 21-0 run with Andorra unable to catch up as nothing dropped, not even from the charity stripe.
As coach Angela Adamoli rotated, Starlites forward Maria Bonnett made an instant impact from the bench as Malta ended the first quarter with a 25-point lead.
Defense was on the menu for Malta in the second quarter as Andorra switched things around successfully enough to force themselves into the bonus and finally getting into double digits. However, it was Sophie Abela’s court vision, which eventually saw her finish the game with a leading four assists, and Grima’s presence up and down the floor that kept Malta up by 32 at the end of the half.
The third quarter was Andorra’s opportunity to persevere, moving into the 20-point margin with baskets from Laura Marrugat, but once more Malta dropped another 17 points to keep their impressive lead intact, particularly through their rebounding advantage. Claire Ciantar, the leading rebounder for the side with eight, then showed strength personified as a solo effort at the end of the quarter saw her grabbing the board under the rim after a missed mid-range shot, scoring the second-chance points, and getting the and-one play where she added another point from the line.
The fourth quarter turned violent from the Andorrans as under pressure, Ciantar was slammed to the floor with seven minutes to go as the Andorrans got away with a jump-ball and soon after, Bonnett saw a hand to the face with Malta this time getting the foul.
With five minutes to go, Sasha Lecuyer added to Andorra’s misery with a corner three and the additional point after getting fouled on the shot. Mikela Riolo put up another two points to lead Malta into a 50-point margin and a foul on De Martino put Malta back into the bonus. The Andorrans attempted to fight back but the game was well over as Malta took their first victory of the tournament.
Adamoli’s side face Ireland on Thursday (tip-off: 3PM) for the chance of a top-spot finish in the group stages. Andorra, on the other hand, have now lost both of their games.
ANDORRA: Cristina Rabasa 6, Laura Marrugat 3, Claudia Solano 4, Anna Buscall 2, Patricia Gallego 2, Noah Lorenzo 9, Mariona Vidal, Carla Perez 2, Mirela Alonso 2, Julia Tomas, Cloe Rodriguez.
MALTA: Kristy Galea 10, Sophie Abela 8, Stephanie De Martino 20, Claire Ciantar 7, Josephine Grima 14, Maria Bonett 5, Mikela Riolo 4, Christina Curmi 3, Samantha Brincat 2, Cristina Sollami, Julia Xerri 2, Sasha Lecuyer 4.