It is likely that a new FIBA Small Countries of Europe Games champion will be crowned this year after Andorra put a stop to Malta’s unbeaten run in this year’s tournament with a 93-74 win on Saturday.
It was a game characterised by turnovers as Malta’s 22, compared to Andorra’s nine, gifted easy layups.
Malta were better on the boards, also leading the second-chance points as Kurt Cassar proved vital with 23 points. Tevin Falzon also scored 23, both players registering double-doubles on the day with 11 and 10 rebounds respectively. For Andorra, Bruno Bartolome led the scoring with 16 as Sergi Serrato Balletbo added 15, Guillem Colom and Josep Vilarrubla 13.
Coach Andrea Paccarie made no changes to his starting five as Jack Zammit, David Bugeja, Aaron and Tevin Falzon, together with Cassar started against Andorra.
The Andorrans took the tip but centre Cassar got his payback as his strength was detrimental in the paint as he eventually went on to be the first player in double digits. Malta took the first lead, but Bartolome went coast to coast after a steal to force the first lead change.
As if the game was not close enough from the start, Zammit put up a three to re-take the lead, and as defensively Andorra began to struggle on the wings, Bugeja made them pay with a three-ball of his own. In the paint, Tevin Falzon and Zammit looked in sync with plays being smooth right into the second quarter.
Andorra stayed close and Bartolome put Andorra back in front before the break with a three. He was instrumental as the side took over the third quarter, moving into a double-digit margin before Tevin Falzon brought it back down to nine, and Zammit to seven.
Malta were in the bonus with three minutes to go and down by eight points. However, Andorra were in the business of making steals on the day, finishing with 14, leaving Malta’s players flatfooted and 18 points behind with an 11-0 run before Cassar stopped it from getting higher at the buzzer.
The final quarter was a mountain to climb for Malta with the gap now 20 as Andorra took advantage of Malta’s sloppy plays going up the court. Tevin Falzon’s post play and an Alec Felice Pace triple showed Malta’s fight, but this was not enough as Andorra took the game.
Malta face Ireland on Sunday in the deciding game of the tournament which will determine this year’s winner.
MALTA: J. Zammit 7, D. Bugeja 5, A. Felice Pace 3, P. Shoults, M. Scerri, N. Xuereb 1, T. Falzon 23, I. Felice Pace, A. Falzon 9, K. Xuereb 3, K. Cassar 23, P. Engelbert.
ANDORRA: D. Baez 9, X. Isern 4, M. Puig, S. Balletbo 15, G. Colom 13, J. Vilarrubla 13, B. Bartolome 16, J. De La Rosa, A. Serra 6, A. Bartolome 9, A. Pons, A. Guzman 8.