Malta’s start to their title defence in the FIBA Small Countries of Europe Championship could not have been better as coach Andrea Paccarie’s men overcame San Marino 96-65 on Tuesday. It was a game which the Maltese dominated and once in the lead, keeping it was never in doubt with the greatest margin being that of 33 points.
With star man Sam Deguara out of the tournament late last week, Falzon brothers Aaron and Tevin shone as they scored 32 and 20 respectively, with Tevin also grabbing a double-double after getting 10 rebounds.
However, while the brothers put on a show, another highlight of Tuesday’s game against San Marino was the impressive debut of Starlites guard Jack Zammit. The 18-year-old, who is set for a move to NCAA Division 3 side Gustav Adolphus College in the US, got the nod from the start and spent 26 minutes on court, only second to Aaron Falzon. Zammit scored eight and grabbed five boards.
Speaking to the Times of Malta, Zammit said that despite the big shoes to fill as he replaces former vice-captain and now assistant coach Roderick Vella, he ‘felt great’.
“I felt great, I was pretty calm about it and treated it as if it was any other game. Being the starting point guard, I have quite big shoes to fill since coach Roderick isn’t playing anymore, obviously, I still have a long way to go to reach that level but I’m happy with how I performed today,” Zammit said.
“I’m lucky to have someone with as much experience as Roderick in my corner who guides me whenever I’m uncertain about something.”
Malta led in all areas, particularly at the start. However, defence began to lack in the second quarter and asked about the team’s performance, Zammit admits they had become lazy.
“We played very well. In my opinion, we could have even played a lot better especially in the 2nd quarter but it’s great for a first game,” Zammit said.
“In the first quarter, we came out and followed the game plan, since Sam (Deguara) isn’t here, we needed to push the pace and play fast basketball. We executed well in the first and the score showed it.
“In the second, however, we started to get lazy on defence and didn’t follow the plan and they made us pay for and brought it back to within 10. We stopped pushing the pace and started slowing down on offense, not running our plays and trying to play 1 on 1 with no movement prior. We ended up turning the ball over multiple times and lost a bit of the grip we had on the game. However, we recollected ourselves at halftime and came out playing similar to how we did the first quarter and kept it rolling for the rest of the game.”
Malta face Gibraltar on Wednesday in another must-win game. While Zammit admits there can’t be a tailored plan to counter their opponents, the side will be looking to carry the momentum from their first outing.
“For the game tomorrow (Wednesday), we don’t really have a solid game plan as we don’t have much, if any, recent footage of the Gibraltar team,” Zammit explained.
“We’ll see what coach has managed to gather in our team meeting tomorrow but as of now, we’re just going go out there, carry our momentum from today and execute as we’re supposed to. If we push the pace and shut their main threats down, I don’t think we’ll have any issues.”