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BUPA Luxol break their duck with win over Mellieħa Libertas Spalding

BUPA Luxol’s Nazzareno Buhagiar hits a shot against Mellieħa. PHOTO: WALLY GALEA

Match Day seven led to very close games with some interesting results. BUPA Luxol finally managed to register their first league win after beating Mellieħa Libertas Spalding whilst Depiro overcame Gżira Athleta’s firm resistance to go up a place in the standings. Starlites Naxxar regained solitary leadership after registering their double over Hibs.

The league now takes a four-week breather for the festive season with game day eight scheduled for mid-January.

Mellieħa           79

BUPA Luxol      82

(23-20, 14-22, 21-23, 21-17)

BUPA Luxol finally broke their duck in the league with a success over Mellieħa Libertas Spalding who have now suffered two losses in a row since booking their place in the KO Final in March.

Luxol’s success gains more attention given that they are the only side with only one foreign professional import player and were also missing their coach Duncan Fenech as well as their centre Marko Matijevic.

Respective baskets from Austin Wrighten and Christopher Julian Cordina set Mellieħa off for an early 5-0 lead.

Although Luxol replied with Cannan Coffey’s first buckets from a personal 41-point game, the northerners kept abreast for some time after conclusions from Nenad Buvka and once again Wrighten, now from long range.

However, Luxol, under the direction of stand-in coach Rueben Dalli, always managed to have a reply and they maintained contact with their opponents with hoops from Slovan Opojevlic and Jean Paul Schembri adding to Coffey’s conclusions.

The first quarter ended with Mellieħa enjoying a slender 23-20 lead after late baskets from Nikola Vasovic and Vukasin Jandric.

A 9-2 run late in the second quarter helped Luxol to open a 39-32 lead as they had treys from Schembri and Paul Attard as well points from Stefan Capello, the latter returning on court after some weeks out due to injury.

However, Mellieħa recovered some of this deficit by half-time after hoops from Jeremy Joyner and Vasovic and then had a positive start to the second half with a 13-2 streak which put them back ahead at 50-44.

The game entered into an interesting stage with both sides tussling for each possession.

Luxol had another good run, this time 11-2 as they again took the upper hand to move to 60-53 with 11 minutes to the final buzzer.

Mellieħa, who had won the first-round game 78-55, pushed for a comeback with Jandric and Wrighten notching some hoops but, at the other end, Coffey was on song to keep Luxol ahead.

The game was, however, totally open on the final minute as Wrighten banged a trey to make it 77-78 and Mellieħa resorted to stop the clock.

Coffey kept his cool to bank in two free throws but Buvka kept Mellieħa’s hopes alive with a late basket. Once again Coffey was fouled and again he did not falter from the foul line.

Jandric had the final opportunity to draw level but his desperate shot from half court, at the buzzer, missed the mark as Luxol celebrated their first league win.

Mellieħa: M. Falzon, V. Jandric 13, N. Vasovic 15, I. Bonett 4, N. Bukva 17, J. Joyner 6, CJ Cordina 10, N. Sultana, A. Wrighten 14.

Luxol: N. Buhagiar 5, P. Attard 3, JP Schembri 20, A.Trapani, L. Trapani, C. Coffey 41, S. Opojevlic 2, S. Cappello 11. 

Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Ciurariu, F. Ciurariu.

Depiro 82

Gżira Athleta   76   

(11-14, 29-26, 20-12, 22-24)

Depiro closed off the year on a high with a victory over Gżira Athleta as both teams now have three wins from seven games in the league.

The game got off with a hoop from Depiro’s TJ Atwood, his first of many on the day as he finished with an impressive

44-point tally.

However, Gżira Athleta replied with four back-to-back hoops from four different players.

Athleta had a good streak at the start of the second quarter with a 15-2 run with Zachary Hudson, Luca Stefanovic and Shawn Montague getting the buckets as they went 26-13 ahead.

Depiro showed character when they replied to bring the game almost at par within three minutes with two Miguel Brincat treys sandwiching hoops from Atwood as well as Oriakhi.

Play now was balanced and the first half ended 40-40 after a trey from Nathan Xuereb for Athleta replied immediately by Atwood.

The same balanced affair continued for the first eight minutes of the second half for 51-51 but then Depiro surprised their opponents in the next two minutes to open a double digit lead 62-52.

The pressure was now on Athleta and they did strive hard through Montague and Hudson. The lead did in fact change hands two minutes from the end after treys from Hudson and Xuereb made it a 76-75 game.

Atwood nailed in a further two hoops whilst Athleta’s attempts were being foiled mainly by

Oriakhi.

With time running out, Athleta resorted to tactical fouls but freethrows from Nicholas Grech and Oriakhi made Depiro’s win a certainty.

Depiro: S. Galea 2, B. Nel, A. Attard, N. Grech 1, S. Vella, TJ Attwood 44, M. Brincat 16, M. Mallia, A. Oriakhi 19, M. Debattista, L. Vella, T. Reese.

Athleta: Z. Hudson 24,  S. Montague 20, L. Stefanovic 10, N. Xuereb 15, S. Vincic 4, R. Abela, J. Caruana, S. Manganiello, B. Zammit 3.

Referees: B. Vassallo, I. Simic , V. Nikolic.

Hibernians        80

Starlites Naxxar             83

(25-16, 19-22, 13-17, 23-28)

Starlites Naxxar registered a league double over Hibs after their 114-99 first round success and also managed to regain the solitary leadership in the standings as both sides were joint leaders coming into this game.

Hibs set off on a high note as two early 8-0 streaks had them open a 19-7 lead after just five minutes of play.

Keith Dimech opened with two three balls which were followed likewise through two long-distance shots from Christian Soderholm whilst Mason Vires added his first hoop in the game.

Starlites tried to find their footing with a brace of buckets from Jacon Bates.

But the Paolites maintained their double-digit lead, also through close-range efforts from their centre Ivan Demcesen coming off the bench, although a very late triple from Jamiah Windom Haynes, also coming off the bench, gave some impetus to the Naxxar side.

Vires set the Hibs’ machine going again in the second quarter with the first bucket as they still kept the upper edge with Dimech and David Bugeja assisting the ‘foreign legion’ to a maximum lead of 44-31 with one minute left in the first half.

Starlites had Matthew Scerri on song from long distance earlier on but managed to again close off the quarter on a high with seven straight points through the Haynes/Bates tandem for a 44-38 interval score.

The latter missed the opportunity to close further the gap early in the second half with some missed free throws with Hibs taking the opportunity to again marginally extend their lead to 52-43 after four back-to-back points from the athletic Vires.

Here, the Naxxar side replied with a 10-2 run, started and concluded through Alec Felice Pace free throws, which practically re-opened the game as now only one point was separating these two sides.

The lead changed hands for the first time early in the last quarter as a 7-0 run, with an Ian Felice Pace trey and a brace of Haynes hoops, moved Starlites 62-59 ahead.

Hibs’ reaction was instant and quite determined through a 14-3 counter run, including a Bugeja triple and a brace of Demcesen buckets to again take the upper edge at 73-65, now four minutes to play.

Scerri again broke Starlites’ momentary slump with another long-distance shot.

Bugeja did likewise at the other end but the victors were quick to again respond with a Myles Thomas three ball.

One minute from the final buzzer, it was all-square on the court after yet another Scerri trey made it 78-a-piece.

Demcesen gave the final lead to Hibs with Bates responding off two free throws after an unsportsmanlike foul and a bucket seconds later.

Hibs missed their last offences with Starlites also losing the opportunity to close off the game for good with only a free throw from two, thereby allowing Hibs the chance for a late long distance equalizer, but to no avail.

Hibs: M. Vires 19, N. Cassar, M. Vucinic, D. Bugeja 14, L. Farrugia, K. Dimech 18, A. Axiaq, R. Aquilina, C. Soderholm 15, I. Demcesen 14, P. Shoults.       

Starlites: A. Felice Pace 4, I. Azzopardi, A. Azzopardi, I. Felice Pace 5, M. Fabri, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 15, J. Bates 23, L. Farrugia, K. Xuereb 2, J. Haynes 25, M. Thomas 9.   

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

Standings: Starlites Naxxar 13; Hibs 12; Gżira Athleta, Mellieħa Libertas Spalding, Depiro 10; BUPA Luxol 8.

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