Falzon makes All-star five
Malta had to settle for a bronze medal in this year’s FIBA Small Countries of Europe Games after losing their final game to new champions Ireland 97-66 on Sunday.
It was a do-or-die finale to the tournament which decided all three top places. A win for Ireland gave the host nation its second title after having won it back in 1994.
Malta were missing rebounds leader Kurt Cassar and shooting guard David Bugeja, who were suspended for today’s game by the team after a mid-game spat on Saturday in the game against Andorra. This was going to be a tough introduction to such an important game against an Ireland side with four starters who are professional players, and another heading to the US to play college ball.
However, Tevin Falzon stepped up as he led the team’s rebounds with 11, added to the team-high 17 points. Aaron Falzon added 13 as Alec Felice Pace completed Malta’s trio in double-digit scoring with 10 points. For Ireland, John Paul Carroll led the game with 20 points as Jordan Blount added 17, Sean Flood scored 16 and Lorcan Murphy got 10.
Peter Shoults replaced Bugeja, and Kurt Xuereb started instead of Kurt Cassar as they joined Jack Zammit, Aaron, and Tevin Falzon in Sunday’s starting five.
Zammit opened proceedings with a quick layup as Malta held most of the ball in an uncharacteristic slow start for Ireland. On defence, Aaron Falzon started strong as he got two blocks in the first five minutes. However, Ireland managed to get through to take a five-point lead into the second quarter.
Nathan Xuereb and Tevin Falzon both made three-balls to bring the game to within three but with Aaron Falzon the top priority for Ireland’s defence, he was crowded just enough to be kept quiet as the Irish continued to pile up points. A 7-0 run to end the quarter left Malta in a sticky situation, particularly because coach Andrea Paccarie’s side needed a 24+ points win to secure gold.
The second half was similar, however the introduction of Felice Pace was a breath of fresh air as the guard immediately put up six points and a scrappy performance which, for Malta supporters, was surely a joy to watch.
Despite this, Ireland grew even stronger, leading by 28 at one point for the highest lead of the game. Shoults scored back to back-to-back baskets as Malta managed a 22-22 third quarter. But they could not overturn such a difficult scoreline in the final quarter with Ireland taking the game with a 31-point margin.
Following the final buzzer, FIBA confirmed the tournament’s All-star five: Guillem Colom (Andorra), Miguel Ortega (Gibraltar), Aaron Falzon (Malta), Jordan Blount (Ireland), and John Paul Carrol (Ireland).
This year’s Most Valuable Player was Andorra’s Colom, with the side also taking silver.
IRELAND: K. Hosford 2, E. Quigley 1, C. Roe 5, N. Randolph 3, J. Killeen 4, A. O’Sullivan 7, C. Fulton 5, L. Murphy 10, S. Flood 16, W. Hanley 7, J. Blount 17, J. Carroll 20.
MALTA: J. Zammit 6, M. Scerri, N. Xuereb 6, I. Felice Pace, P. Engelbert, D. Bugeja, A. Felice Pace 10, P. Shoults 5, T. Falzon 17, A. Falzon 13, K. Xuereb 9, K. Cassar.