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Starlites Naxxar, Hibs win to show credentials

Hibs player Ylenia Bonett (left) goes for the basket despite the challenge of Mandi Mercieca. Photo: Wally Galea

Starlites Naxxar 61
ARMS Depiro 53

(19-15, 10-17, 14-14, 18-7)

A nine-point run midway in the last quarter paved the way for Starlites Naxxar’s first win of the season over an ARMS Depiro side that had their import player, the returning Hannah Johnson, out of action after apparently suffering an injury in the build-up for this game.

The Naxxar side also presented a totally local squad for their season opener although one expects that the team will be strengthened with an import player in the coming weeks.

After Starlites’ very early lead, with Stephanie Demartino already taking most of the offensive responsibility, Depiro managed to get back at par thanks to long distance shots from their guards Monique Caruana and Nicole Agius.

After rejoining Starlites after her one-year spell in the Canary Islands, Mikela Riolo’s last-minute hoop helped Starlites to a 19-15 first quarter lead.

An 8-0 rally, with a trio of baskets from Claire Ciantar, helped Depiro to overturn the score and they maintained this momentum until the interval for a slender 32-29 advantage.

The two sides shared 28 points equally in the third quarter as they replied constantly to each other, yet three points continued to separate the teams on the court even with ten minutes to go to the final buzzer.

The start of the final quarter was a somewhat dry affair, points wise. A Mariah Fenech basket was replied to, at the opposite end, with another effort from a young player, centre Danika Galea.

Then came a 9-0 rally that placed Starlites back in front 56-49, with two minutes to go forcing Depiro to late timeouts.

However, even if the Mtarfa side broke Starlites’ run, final hoops from Fenech and Demartino ascertained Starlites’ initial success.

Depiro will now face Luxol this Sunday as both sides will try to avoid remaining the only winless team in the competition.

Starlites: A. Saliba, M. Riolo 8, J. Micallef 1, S. Farrugia Tabone 2, M. Bonett 6, S. DeMartino 22, K. Portelli 2, M. Fenech 7, A. Micallef 1, D. Camilleri, S. Davies 4, C. Curmi 8.
Depiro: M. Caruana 8, N. Agius 14, J. Xerri 9, J. Mallia, T. Mifsud, No. Agius, C. Ciantar 7, N. Hili, N. Ebejer, N. Borg 4, D. Galea 11, E. Cassar.
Referees: I. Simic, N. Azzopardi.

Caffe Moak Luxol 51
Hibernians 70

(17-18, 6-21, 21-15, 7-16)

Hibernians opened their season on a high note as they had the better of Caffe Moak Luxol. The second and final quarters had moments where the Paolites took control of the tempo and registered good runs which
significantly steered them towards the win.

The two sides paraded their new imports, both incidentally netting 17 personal points in their first outing in Malta, with Hibs’ Kenyotta Jenkins having the pleasure to end with the team victory as well.

Jenkins, who will soon turn 30, last played in Mexico following an experience in Spain’s lower tiers. She adds more strength under the boards for Hibs, this year coached by Norbert Borg, as they also welcomed back Asleigh Van Vliet after a year’s absence due to maternal reasons.

On the other hand, Luxol paraded Florida-born guard Jenniffer Oramas in their squad. The latter played NCAA Division 1 ball with Sam Houston State and is in her first professional ploy.

The first rubber was a balanced affair with treys from new signing, veteran Josephine Diaby and Oramas, not only neutralising similar threeballs from Hibs’ Samantha Brincat but also helping Luxol to an early lead.

However, Hibernians seized the lead late, 18-17, after ten minutes following a brace of Van Vliet shots from the charity line.

With Luxol, now again under the playcalling of Santino Coppa after a lapse of some years, going totally ‘dry’ for seven whole minutes, Hibs extended their lead to 27-17.

Then four consecutive three pointers, including two from Jasmine Abela, helped Hibs to a double digit 39-23 lead.

Luxol improved significantly at the start of the second half and three threeballs from Oramas and a respective hoop from the returning veterans Sarah Pace and Amanda Mercieca brought down the margin to a single digit.

A complete comeback was pushed away by Hibs early in the final quarter as they outscored Luxol with a 10-0 run which literally closed off the game with five minutes to go as the gap between the two sides widened to 66-46.

Hibs now look eagerly to their next encounter where they will face Starlites Naxxar, a game that will definitely lead to a solitary leader after two game days.

Luxol: L. Fenech Pace, S. Pace 9, M. Mercieca 5, N. Vella, F. Camilleri, S. Vella, J. Schembri, A. Borg, P. Ellul, J. Diaby 15, A. Fenech Pace 5, J. Oramas 17
Hibernians: M. Buhagiar, E. Farrugia, I. Agius 6, Y. Bonett 4, A. Van Vliet 14, S. Brincat 12, B. Agius, J. Abela 15, C. Camilleri, N. Farrugia, K. Caruana 2, K. Jenkins 17
Referees: K. Dworniczak, I. Simic.

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