Malta’s shot at winning a bronze medal at the FIBA European Small Countries Championship was denied in the final quarter as Kosovo came back to win the third-place game 70-60 on Sunday.
This comes as a disappointing finale to a game that was largely dominated by the Malta girls bar a fightback in the second quarter and coach Angela Adamoli’s side will have a late lapse in concentration to blame which lost them control over the game.
Adamoli switched up the starting five, going with Sophie Abela, Samatha Brincat, Stephanie De Martino, Josephine Grima, and Christina Curmi. Yet again, it was Grima who led the scoring with 18 points, also grabbing 11 boards for a double-double. De Martino added 17 points while Kristy Galea scored nine. For Kosovo, it was Era Shatri, with 40 minutes under her belt, who led with 17 points as prolific Alexi Tolefree scored 16, and Saranda Daci added 14.
Malta kicked off the scoring with a three-pointer from Brincat and a fastbreak score from Curmi. The side looked fresh despite the loss to Luxembourg on Saturday. They appeared to have gotten their confidence back, with a fired-up Grima taking them up by seven by the end of the quarter.
Kosovo staged a fightback in the second, bringing the game to within two points before De Martino restored a five-point gap with a three-pointer before the half.
Tempo remained high in the second half as both sides traded steals but strong play from Malta put them up by ten for the first double-digit lead of the day. Unlike the game on Saturday, Malta played close to the rim, forcing the Kosovars to foul into the bonus.
However, the fourth quarter was a different story as a lapse in concentration by the Maltese at the start caused the only lead change of the game with Tolefree putting Kosovo ahead with a three-ball. Malta could not shake this and, down by six with 15 seconds to go, they resorted to intentional fouls from which Kosovo made no mistake to score.
In the tournament’s final, Malta will still be represented as referee Bernard Vassallo is part of the officiating crew as Ireland played Luxembourg for the top spot. WATCH HERE
KOSOVO: E. Shatri 17, A. Tolefree 16, A. Muhadri 8, S. Daci 14, A. Perquku 8, E. Kamerolli 3, U. Emra, I. Konjusha, V. Bytyqi, M. Rushiti, A. Tuhina 2, D. Halitaj 2.
MALTA: S. Abela 5, S. Brincat 8, S. De Martino 17, S. Lecuyer, J. Grima 18, K. Galea 9, M. Riolo, M. Bonett 1, C. Sollami, C. Ciantar, C. Curmi 2.