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Starlites, Mellieħa stay perfect as Gżira Athleta break their duck

Starlites player Jacob Bates in a duel with Christian Soderholm, of Hibernians. Photo: Wally Galea

GŻIRA ATHLETA           87

DEPIRO             79                     

(19-22, 21-16, 25-16, 22-25)

Gżira Athleta notched their first league win of the season after having to dig hard to subdue Depiro’s stiff resistance.

Albeit, points were dry in the first part of the encounter, Depiro had the best start notching the first two baskets of the game through their American tandem T. J. Atwood and Alex Oriakhi.

On his local debut, their counterpart, Terrance Reese, got a bucket himself shortly afterwards as Gżira Athleta had Shawn Montague, through his athleticism, keeping them close by.

Treys from Atwood and Miguel Brincat momentarily distanced Depiro in the lead but Athleta were quick to reply and managed to end the first quarter just three points away, 22-19, with five straight points from Nathan Xuereb and a late hoop from Zachary Hudson.

The game was at par just three minutes later after a Francesco Mifsud Bonnici basket and although Depiro regained the lead through two three balls from Atwood, Athleta had a 9-0 late streak in the half, including a Stefan Vincic trey, to have a marginal two-point lead, 40-38 at the interval.

The pivotal moment of the game came in the third rubber as Athleta restarted play after the break with more precision than their opponents and managed to open a double-digit lead at 59-43 after eight minutes in the second half.

Depiro improved after a further time-out and brought down the deficit to single digits early in the final quarter.

The game was still open, albeit Depiro always tried to recover the lost ground and some missed free throws midway in the last quarter did not help their cause but an Atwood trey made it 70-74 with three minutes to go.

Here, a brace of Hudson shots from the charity line and a Xuereb three-ball put Athleta back with some ease in front as the clock was ticking down

further.

The Mtarfa side did not, however, throw in the towel. They kept trying and a late Brincat trey put them back four points behind.

Yet an unsportsmanlike foul resulted in Montague banging in two free throws to ascertain Athleta’s victory.

ATHLETA: Z. Hudson 16, S. Montague 34, F. Mifsud Bonnici 10, L. Stefanovic, J. Ellul Dowling, N. Xuereb 20, I. Xuereb, S. Vincic 5, R. Abela, J. Caruana, B. Zammit 2.

DEPIRO: S. Galea, B. Nel, N. Grech 3, S. Vella 2, TJ Attwood 43, M. Brincat 9, M. Mallia 4, A. Oriakhi 14, M. Debattista, L. Vella, T. Reese 4.

Referees:  B. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Simic.

Starlites Naxxar           114

Hibernians       99                        

(28-20, 23-17, 31-29, 32-33)

Starlites Naxxar registered their second win in the league after beating Hibernians who had started off their league commitments with a win over Luxol.

Hibs set off with a very early lead at 9-3 with initial hoops from Christian Soderholm, Mason Vires and Luke Farrugia. But then the Paolites were hit with a 21-6 Starlites run in the next four minutes.

The Naxxar side presented on court new American import Myles Thomas, who joined his US counterparts Jacob Bates and Jamiah Windom Haynes. Thomas was a game starter and ended as the side’s top point-getter.

Hibs had their playcaller Mario Tabone ejected from the game after seven minutes due to excessive protesting towards the game officials and later, also lost David Bugeja and Peter Shoults through injury.

Thus, they faced an uphill battle after finding themselves 15-24 down after eight minutes of play.

They did reduce the margin to six points, 32-28, three minutes from the half-time buzzer, but Starlites closed off the half on a sound note as Matthew Scerri and the Bates/Haynes tandem led their side to a 51-37 interval lead.

Hibs showed grit when play restarted and an 8-0 run. With Ivan Demcesen finding adequate space underneath the boards, had them reduce the gap to a single digit once again.

Treys from Thomas, Haynes, Louie Farrugia and Scerri a short while afterwards re-established Starlites’ lead by the end of the third quarter to one similar to the half time interval at 82-66.

Although Hibs tried to recover and had points off their US duo Vires/Soderholm, Starlites did not falter at the opposite end and Robert Bonnici grabbed some hoops.

Later, all the three import players, obviously only two can play at any one time on the court, contributed to lead Starlites to victory where they also reached the century mark off a Bates jumper.

Hibs came up only a point short from their own century in this high-scoring game.

Starlites: A. Felice Pace, I. Azzopardi, A. Azzopardi, R. Bonnici 14, I. Felice Pace 1, M. Fabri 5, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 10, J. Bates 23, L. Farrugia 10, J. Haynes 24, M. Thomas 27.

Hibs:  M. Vires 27, N. Cassar, M. Vucinic, D. Bugeja, L. Farrugia 6, A. Axiaq 4, R. Aquilina, M. Attard  5, C. Soderholm 33, I. Demcesen 20, P. Shoults 4.

Referees: I. Simic, I. Ciurariu, V. Nikolic.

BUPA Luxol     55

Mellieħa          78   

(11-22, 8-18, 23-18, 13-20)

Mellieħa Libertas Spalding ended game day two of the BOV Men League sharing the top spot with Starlites Naxxar after they beat BUPA Luxol in a game that had to switch venue due to

humidity problems and a slippery surface in the main Ta Qali pavilion.

The game was stopped after 16 minutes of play only to recommence some 20 minutes later, in the adjacent training courts.

The Northerners won meritedly as they showed more consistency than Luxol, who were also shorn of their two centres Marko Matijevic and Stefan Capello, both injured, apart from the fact that they are the only side with one professional import player.

A respective brace of hoops from Nenad Buvka and Vule Jandric added to a Jeremy Joyner shot from inside the key helped Mellieħa to an early 10-2 lead.

Luxol’s US import Canaan Coffey banged in two treys which brought the Violets momentarily quite close at 11-14, only for Mellieħa to close off the first quarter and start the second with 11 straight points as Isaac Bonett and ex-Luxol CJ Cordina added hoops from their end.

Play lost some impetus as both sides seemed to feel the slippery conditions and the game was stopped at 29-16 with three minutes to half time.

Play restarted in the adjacent venue with Luxol banging in two treys from Jean Paul Schembri but Mellieħa were well ahead,

40-19, at half-time with Nikola Vasovic and Bonett getting some jumpers.

Luxol improved in the third rubber as Coffey and Schembri notched several baskets, including an 8-0 run. It was only in the latter stages of the same third quarter that Mellieħa once again took the upper edge as Austin Wrighten’s points added to Joyner’s to re-open a double-digit lead.

Any attempts of recovery by Luxol was quashed by Mellieha at the start of the final quarter as the latter registered a 15-1 run

to put the game’s outcome without a doubt with Mellieħa savouring the shared top spot in the standings.

Luxol: J. Cefai 4, K. Gauci 4, N. Buhagiar, P. Attard 3, JP Schembri 23, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, C. Coffey 17, S. Opojevlic 4.

Mellieħa: M. Falzon, V. Jandric 4, N. Vasovic 11, I. Bonett 8, C. Briffa, N. Bukva 16, J. Joyner 16, M. Azzopardi 2, CJ Cordina 9, N. Sultana,A. Wrighten 12.

Referees: B. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Ciurariu.

Standings: Mellieħa Libertas Spalding, Starlites Naxxar 4; Gżira Athleta, Hibernians 3; Depiro, BUPA Luxol 2.

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