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Inspired Falzon scores tournament high as Malta get past Gibraltar

Aaron Falzon (right) dropped 38 points as Malta beat Gibraltar. Photo: FIBA

Malta’s Aaron Falzon produced another five-star performance as Malta fought through a resilient San Marino side to win 89-63 on Wednesday, making it two wins in as many games so far in the FIBA Small Countries of Europe Games.

Leading the game in points, Aaron Falzon scored a tournament-high of 38 as Kurt Cassar scored 18 and grabbed an impressive 20 boards. David Bugeja completed Malta’s double-digit scorers with 10. For Gibraltar, Miguel Ortega led with 16 as Marius Grigaitis added 12.

Malta’s starters were unchanged from Tuesday’s opener against San Marino, with Jack Zammit, Bugeja, Tevin and Aaron Falzon, and Cassar starting the game.

Malta took the tip and from the first possession, Zammit found Aaron Falzon under the hoop who won a foul, scoring the first point from the line. San Marino responded with a three-pointer and a layup to take an early lead.

The first lead change after the opening basket came with six minutes to go in the first quarter as Malta went ahead with an Aaron Falzon bucket after a Bugeja steal. The star of Malta’s win over San Marino shocked the Gibraltar side as he dropped his marker and a shot from downtown to become the first player in double-digits and send Malta on an 8-0 run.

Tempers were high in the second quarter as both sides traded blows, coach Andrea Paccarie’s clan maintaining a 12-point lead over Gibraltar in a quarter largely run by Bugeja’s speedy runs. However, Gibraltar were no pushovers and fought back to bring it to single digits. In an exciting finale to the half, post play by Cassar and points from the line by Peter Shoults restored the gap with Grigaitis scoring a layup at the buzzer.

The second half continued in similar fashion, with Tevin Falzon getting into a groove after a slow start on the day. Ian Felice Pace took point, finding the open man numerous times as with the paint crowded at both ends, points were mostly restricted to free throws.

Gibraltar slacked on offense in the final quarter and Malta made them pay as the lead increased to 20 with the former attempting to cut the deficit with three-shots. They did make the most of their drives inside the paint, however, as they were in the bonus with 5.5 minutes to go. Unable to make this count, Shoults and Bugeja added to their misery to take another convincing win.

Malta will get a chance to look at their opposition before playing Andorra on Saturday (tip-off: 17.00)

GIBRALTAR: A. Tejon 7, M. Grigaitis 12, M. Ortega 16, L. Perez 6, M. Rodriguez 2, S. Buxton 9, C. Culross 2, M. El Yettefti, N. Gracia, C. Noon, I. Yeats, T. Yome 9.

MALTA: D. Bugeja 10, K. Cassar 18, T. Falzon 9, A. Falzon 38, I. Felice Pace, P. Engelbert, A. Felice Pace 2, M. Scerri, P. Shoults 7, N. Xuereb 1, K. Xuereb, J. Zammit 4.

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