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Starlites Naxxar go clear at the top as Mellieħa Libertas Spalding suffer defeat

The BOV Men League Game Day 3 resulted in Starlites Naxxar taking the solitary top spot in the standings after they continued on their winning streak with a victory over Gżira Athleta.

Mellieħa Libertas Spalding, who last week were sharing a joint top place in the league table, succumbed to their first league defeat when Hibs beat them in a high scoring game.

The Paolites now jumped to the second spot, with two wins and a loss, together with the same Mellieħa.

Depiro registered their first league success and now are at par with Gżira Athleta in the table with Luxol at the bottom, still winless after three games.

Starlites Naxxar           88

Gżira Athleta  73                           

(30-22, 20-17, 18-22, 20-12)

The game set off with six treys in the first half of the initial quarter.

Starlites notched a poker of such long-distance shots, shared equally between Matthew Scerri and Alec Felice Pace whilst Gżira Athleta, who had to do without their local duo Matthew Gouder and Francesco Mifsud Bonnici, scored a brace.

Myles Thomas, assisted by Robert Bonnici, led the Naxxar side to a 26-14 advantage. Yet three balls from Shawn Montague and Nathan Xuereb and mid-rangers from Zachary Hudson brought Athleta a bit closer by the end of the first quarter.

This game was officiated by two referees instead of the norm of a 3-refereeing system. This was mainly due to the lack of availability of referees, a factor that is ever on the increase as, unfortunately, less people are ready to embark on this path that can also lead to success.

The cause can be diverse ranging from work rosters, unnecessary pressure and, at times, negative over-reaction by clubs as well as the need for more direct and indirect investment, also in the development and preparation of the officials.

As Starlites duo Jamiah Haynes and Jacob Bates started also getting more into the offensive fray, the Naxxar side not only neutralised all of Athleta’s efforts but also managed to extend their lead further to 50-39 by the interval.

The half-time pep talk initially worked for Athleta as they came faster off the blocks in the second half to bring the game at par after 26 minutes of play at 54-54. A minute later, points off Xuereb and Montague had Gżira also take the lead.

From here till the quarter’s final buzzer, the two sides battled evenly on the court and it was only in the final moments of the this third rubber that Starlites regained the upper edge as they scored a 7-0 quick ending run through Haynes and Thomas.

All was to be decided in the final quarter but here Starlites showed more precision and eventually re-opened a double-digit lead.

With the game clock coming to the end, Starlites controlled the game’s tempo and thwarted off Athleta’s final attempts.

Starlites: A. Felice Pace 8, I. Azzopardi, A. Azzopardi 2, R. Bonnici 3, I. Felice Pace, M. Fabri 3, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 11, J. Bates 11, L. Farrugia, J. Haynes 20, M. Thomas 30.

Athleta: Z. Hudson 19, S. Montague 30, L. Stefanovic 6, J. Ellul Dowling 2, N. Xuereb 8, I. Xuereb, S. Vincic 4, R. Abela, J. Caruana, B. Zammit 4.

Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, V. Nikolic.

Depiro             66

BUPA Luxol      39                     

(16-12, 15-9, 22-2, 13-16)

Depiro registered their first league win and left BUPA Luxol as the only side still without a win in this league campaign.

This was a low scoring encounter which set off with Depiro opening a 10-3 lead after six minutes of play as TJ Atwood tris of hoops added to a brace of close range baskets from centre Alex Oriakhi with Luxol’s import player Canaan Coffey grabbing a three-ball in between at the other end.

Two treys from Jean Paul Schembri brought Luxol, who were again missing their two centres Marko Matijevic and Stefan Capello whilst Philip Engelbert is still out injured, a bit closer.

However, Depiro were still enjoying a marginal lead, 16-12, after the first quarter with their other import Terrence Reese grabbing a hoop as well as Nicky Grech and the first basket for ex-Athleta Sean Galea in Depiro’s colours.

The second quarter started with Depiro grabbing a 9-0 streak as Oriakhi was finding lots of space under the boards and although Coffey eventually stopped Luxol’s drought, there was still a double-digit margin between the two sides at the interval, 31-21.

The game was totally decided in the third quarter as Depiro outscored their opponents at this juncture with a partial 22-2 scoreline in these ten minutes.

With the outcome clearly in Depiro’s favour, the final quarter was an open affair with both sides replying constantly to each other.

Depiro: S. Galea 2, N. Grech 2, S. Vella, TJ Attwood 22, M. Brincat, M. Mallia 5, A. Oriakhi 23, M. Debattista 4, T. Reese 8.

Luxol: J. Cefai, K. Gauci 6, N. Buhagiar, P. Attard 2, JP Schembri 6, A. Trapani, L. Trapani 2, C. Coffey 17, S. Opojevlic 6.

Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Ciurariu, V. Nikolic.

Hibernians      125

Mellieha          89   

(25-28, 30-12, 32-29, 38-20)

A powerful ending to the second quarter paved the way for Hibs’ success over a Mellieħa side who withered away after an encouraging start and could not erase the deficit after they also lost their play caller Adrian Mifsud, after two technical fouls in the last seconds of the first half.

Two Austin Wrighten hoops and a Nenad Buvka basket sandwiched in between had the Northerners open a very early 6-0 lead in the opening minute.

But Hibs managed to bring the score at par, ten-a-piece, by the fourth minute after Christian Soderholm’s opening points for Hibs and followed by Mason Vires’ first hoops on a day where he topped the personal half century mark.

Despite Soderholm’s further points, Mellieħa still managed to keep the lead as Vukasin Jandric’s baskets had them 26-20 ahead.

Hibs’ tall post player Ivan Demcesen notched consecutive points but Mellieha kept abreast as Wrighten’s hoop after 14 minutes of play had his side 33-29 ahead.

Hibs started pounding their opponents’ key with more consistency and a seven-point streak followed, very shortly afterwards, with 11 points on the run had them open a sudden double-digit lead, 51-37.

Here, Mellieha lost their coach as Hibs cooly netted the resulting free throws.

Mellieħa did momentarily show signs of a recovery as they opened the second half with six straight points from Jandric but eventually, Hibs regained their scoring touch as Keith Dimech started also sharing a number of conclusions with Vires who was a constant all throughout the game.

The game was practically decided before the last quarter and Hibs managed to reach the century mark with a Soderholm hoop quite early in the final rubber and a number of later treys continued increasing their point tally.

At the other end Jeremy Joyner grabbed some close-range shots to make Mellieħa’s end score more respectable.

Hibs: M. Vires 51, N. Cassar, M. Vucinic, L. Farrugia 2, K. Dimech 20, A. Axiaq 2, R. Aquilina, M. Attard, C. Soderholm 20, I. Demcesen 20.

MellieĦa: M. Falzon, V. Jandric 26, N. Vasovic 8, I. Bonett 4, C. Briffa, N. Bukva 9, J. Joyner 13, M. Azzopardi, CJ Cordina 8, N. Sultana 2, A. Wrighten 19 

Referees: K. Dworniczak, Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Simic.

Standings

Starlites Naxxar 6; Hibs, Mellieħa Libertas Spalding 5; Gżira Athleta, Depiro 4; BUPA Luxol 3.

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