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Starlites and Hibernians extend winning streak

Hibs player Mason Vires goes for the basketball against Gżira Athleta. Photo: Wally Galea

Mellieħa          66

Depiro             70                          

(9-16, 11-19, 27-15, 19-20)

Depiro managed to overcome Mellieha Libertas Spalding’s resistance for the second time this season in a game that went down to the wire, following an earlier success in the Shield competition.

Both teams are now at 2-2 in the league standings.

The Mtarfa side had the better start, opening an early 16-5 lead with initial baskets from Alex Oriakhi followed by the first points from top scorer TJ Atwood apart from threeballs off the hands of Michael Debattista and Terence Reese.

Mellieħa reduced the deficit to single digits after Austin Wrighten’s entry onto the court and points from Nenad Buvka.

Although Jeremy Joyner’s close-distance hoops momentarily reduced the margin further, Depiro closed off the first half with an 8-0 run, all points coming from Atwood for a 35-20 interval lead.

With Atwood and Oriakhi continuing to land hoops, Depiro again extended their lead to 46-30 and some may have thought that the game was taking its definite direction.

Yet Mellieħa had other thoughts and they suddenly improved their offensive plays with Wrighten and Vukasin Jandric combining their efforts so that the encounter was wide open again by the end of the third quarter at 50-47.

The last rubber was a continuous battle at both ends with both sides still shooting free shots at a low percentage.

A Joyner hoop brought Mellieħa just a basket away, 54-56, with six minutes to go.

Although Depiro had a momentary sigh of relief with a Nicholas Grech trey, the game was still now open for any result after a Nikola Vasovic jumper for 60-61 with two minutes to go till the final game buzzer.

Another Grech threeball upped Depiro’s hopes but the northerners kept on believing as Wrighten bagged a trey, with seconds to go, for a tight 66-67 scoreline.

Mellieħa resorted to fouls to stop the clock and they also missed grabbing a defensive board on a missed free throw so that Atwood then closed off the game for good with a brace of shots from the charity line with time totally in Depiro’s favour.

Mellieħa: M. Falzon, V. Jandric 11, N. Vasovic 8, I. Bonett 3, C. Briffa, N. Bukva 10, J. Joyner 9, M. Azzopardi, CJ Cordina, N. Sultana, A. Wrighten 25.  

Depiro: S. Galea 2, B. Nel, N. Grech 7, S. Vella, TJ Attwood 38, M. Brincat 2, M. Mallia, A. Oriakhi 11, M. Debattista 3, T. Reese 7.

Referees: B. Vassallo, D. Torok, V. Nikolic.

BUPA Luxol      76

Starlites Naxxar        87                          

(20-26, 12-20, 29-23, 15-18)

Starlites Naxxar maintained their winning streak after getting the better of BUPA Luxol.

Despite still playing with one professional import player, the latter gave a very good account for themselves and were in the game throughout, with only three mini-streaks allowing Starlites to maintain the upper edge and grab the final victory.

Luxol had three treys in the first minutes with a brace from Jean Paul Schembri and another from Juan Cefai to neutralise Starlites’ early points from the Felice Pace brothers, Alec and Ian as well as Matthew Scerri.

Jacob Bates and Jamiah Windom grabbed a number of hoops to put Starlites marginally ahead with Luxol keeping quite close with baskets from their US player Canaan Coffey as well as from the returning, after injury, centre Marko Matijevic.

The Naxxar side looked like they were moving to a comfortable win when they opened the second quarter with a game high 14-0 run which had them now 40-22 ahead.

However, the game re-opened after the interval as Coffey consecutively banged in a tris of three balls for a 43-48 score. Luxol had an impressive tally of thirteen treys in this game, contributing to their final point total even if they then were below par at shots from the charity line.

Starlites’ reply was a 7-0 run opened by Myles Thomas and continued by Bates and Scerri yet Luxol now were finding their rhythm and managed to keep quite close.

A Cefai trey followed by a close-range Matijevic hoop, early in the last quarter, had the game at 66-71.

Here, Starlites, superior in their defensive boards, made certain of their win as they replied with nine points on the go to re-open a double-digit margin with just three minutes to go.

Luxol still pushed to up their point tally yet Starlites controlled the final moments of the game to make sure of their fourth win in  as many games in the league campaign.

Luxol: J. Cefai 16, K. Gauci, N. Buhagiar, P. Attard 5, JP Schembri 13, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, C. Coffey 24, S. Opojevlic, M. Matijevic 18      

Starlites: A. Felice Pace 12, I. Azzopardi, A. Azzopardi, R. Bonnici 8, I. Felice Pace 11, M. Fabri 5, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 4, J. Bates 23, L. Farrugia, J. Haynes 19, M. Thomas 5

Referees: F. Ciurariu, I. Ciurariu, F. Fabok.

Gżira Athleta  82

Hibernians      101          

(16-25, 21-26, 25-30, 20-20)

Hibs maintained close contact with the league leaders Starlites when they registered their third-century win, this time overcoming the threat posed by Gżira Athleta.

The latter faced an uphill tussle all throughout the game after Hibs managed to set off on a high note with an early 12-4 lead led by their energetic and athletic guard Mason Vires and Christian Soderholm strong plays.

Athleta did improve and points off Nathan Xuereb and Zachary Hudson had them reduce the deficit to five points, 16-21.

Four consecutive hoops, including centre Ivan Demcesen’s first hoop, had Hibs again open a momentary double-digit lead but treys from Luca Stefanovic and the first points in the game from Shawn Montague again brought Athleta closer.

Three-balls from Keith Dimech and Vires were again quickly neutralised at the other end by the Montague/Hudson tandem.

Late in the first half, Hibs, also having an edge under the boards and rebounds, again established a double-digit lead with a 7-0 streak for a 51-37 half-time score.

The third rubber was a high-scoring affair at both ends with Athleta trying their all to claw back into the game but Hibs always managing to reply immediately and keep their lead with Soderholm well on song at this juncture.

Under the Hibs boards, Xuereb was grabbing baskets to assist his team-mates Montague and Hudson yet 28 metres away, Hibs were still pounding, using also fast transition play, and eventually also reached the century mark late in the game off a Soderholm trey.

Athleta: Z. Hudson 25, S. Montague 32, L. Stefanovic 3, J. Ellul Dowling, N. Xuereb 16, I. Xuereb 2, S. Vincic 2, R. Abela, J. Caruana, B. Zammit 2

Hibs:  M. Vires 28, N. Cassar, M. Vucinic, L. Farrugia 5,  K. Dimech 11, A. Axiaq 11, R. Aquilina, M. Attard 4, C. Soderholm 31, I. Demcesen 11    

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

Standings: Starlites Naxxar 8, Hibs 7, Depiro/Mellieha Libertas Spalding 6, Gzira Athleta 5, BUPA Luxol 4.

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