Hibs and Caffe Moak Luxol will be contending the Shield final on February 10 after winning their respective semi-final ties, which had to move onto the Ta Qali training courts due to excessive humidity, caused by the adverse general weather, in the main playing arena making the floor somewhat slippery.
Whilst Hibs grabbed a comfortable win, Luxol managed to book their place in the final only through a last-second winning shot.
ARMS Depiro 48
(19-7, 11-13, 23-20, 17-8)
Group stage winners Hibs were the first team to book a spot in the February final when they overcame the resistance offered by ARMS Depiro.
Once again, the latter were shorn of the services of the injured American Hannah Johnson.
A handful of quick-points streaks were the major determinants in this game as Hibs managed to gradually open a comfortable lead.
The first of these arrived along the change of the first two quarters as the Paolites went on a 11-0 run to put a lot of pressure on Depiro who found themselves facing an uphill task at 7-26.
Ylenia Bonett again was prolific in her conclusions on her way to a 20-point personal game assisted by hoops from the strong centre Kenyotta Jenkins and the veteran leadership provided by Asleigh van Vliet and Samantha Brincat. Guard Iona Agius added a brace of hoops also at this juncture.
Depiro did improve until the halftime buzzer as they brought down the deficit to 20-30 with guards Nicole Agius and Monique Caruana landing buckets.
The margin between the sides went down to a single digit in the first part of the third rubber but Hibs then regained control of the game’s tempo as they hit their opponents with a nine-point run for a 60-40 lead with eight minutes to go.
The encounter here was done and dusted and the two sides played out the last part of the game at par.
Hibs: M. Buhagiar 4, I. Agius 5, Y. Bonett 20, A. Van Vliet 11, S. Brincat 6, B. Agius, J. Abela, C. Camilleri, E. Farrugia, K. Caruana, K. Jenkins 24
Depiro: M. Caruana 16, N. Agius 13, J. Xerri 5, J. Mallia, T. Mifsud, No. Agius, C. Ciantar 7, N. Hili 3, N. Ebejer, N. Borg, D. Galea 4, E. Cassar.
Referees: K. Dworniczak, I. Ciurariu, M. Scerri.
Caffe Moak Luxol 49
Starlites Naxxar 48
(9-12, 6-11, 13-18, 21-7)
A very late rally helped Caffe Moak Luxol notch a last-gasp win and a place in the Shield final.
Sharon Vella’s last second mid-range shot found the opponents’ net to send her team in joyful celebrations as they just pipped Starlites with a mere point after a game where the Naxxar side led for over three quarters of the way, including a 41-28 lead with only the last quarter to go.
However, whilst Luxol upped their tempo and kept believing till the final moments, Starlites could not defend their double-digit lead and had to bow out of the competition.
Josephine Diaby, ex-Starlites, helped Luxol to a very early lead but Starlites quickly went ahead after a trey and hoop from Mikela Riolo and an Andrea Saliba basket.
Although Luxol introduced the veteran, ex-WNBA and Italian international, Susanna Bonfiglio to give a breathing space to US guard Jenniffer Oramas, Starlites still managed to keep the upper edge as Maria Bonett and Cristina Curmi helped them to a 20-12 lead.
Four three balls, two from Riolo and one from Saliba and Stephanie Davies, in the first part of the third quarter moved Starlites to a double-digit lead.
As the last rubber commenced, a brace of Diaby hoops and an Oramas trey moved Luxol seven points away but Starlites managed to keep their opponents at an arm’s length for the next few minutes.
Less than two minutes to the end, the score was 46-41 and here Luxol scored a six-point streak in the next minute through Diaby and Amanda Mercieca to give the Violets a new lead after 24 minutes since their last lead early in the game.
With seconds to go, a brace of Bonnet shots from the charity line seemed to have given Starlites the eventual win after they seemed to be right on track ten minutes earlier, only to fail to manage their lead.
On the other hand, Luxol continued with a never-say-die attitude and played the last possession off a time-out with Vella receiving in the deep left corner and pouring in the game-winning hoop.
Luxol: L. Fenech Pace, S. Pace 6, M. Mercieca 4, N. Vella 2, S. Vella 4, A. Borg, P. Ellul, J. Diaby 19, S. Said, S. Bonfiglio 7, A. Fenech Pace, J. Oramas 7.
Starlites: A. Saliba 9, M. Riolo 14, K. Pirotta, S. Farrugia Tabone, M. Bonett 8, K. Portelli 2, M. Fenech 2, C. Vella, S. Wilke 2, S. Davies 6, C. Curmi 5.
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, F. Ciurariu, N. Azzopardi.