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Caffe Moak Luxol, Starlites Naxxar win to blow play-off race wide open

Game day 12 from the MAPFRE MSV Life Women League resulted in wins for the bottom two sides, Caffe Moak Luxol and Starlites Naxxar, thereby helping the same teams to claw further up the standings and escalate further the tussle for the three play-off spots.

Hibs, despite their loss this week, preserved the upper edge in the standings as they are two games ahead of the two teams now jointly sharing the second place, ARMS Depiro and Starlites, with Luxol still very much in the race even if two games further behind.

The women sector now places its attention on Thursday’s MBA Shield final between Hibs and Caffe Moak Luxol with the tip off scheduled at 1.30pm.

ARMS Depiro 51

Caffe Moak Luxol         58      

(13-13, 11-14, 9-12, 18-19)

Parading their new import player, Brazilian Palmira Marcal who still has to regain her match fitness after just exiting her dwelling after spending four whole weeks in quarantine, Luxol had to dig a bit deep to ward off Depiro’s opposition.

The Mtarfa side’s youngsters, once again without the services of Hannah Johnson, kept up the tempo for three quarters of the game.

In fact, it was a 16-2 streak spread around the closing moments of the first half and the start of the second half which boosted the Violets as they then opened a double-digit margin which they maintained till the final buzzer.

Hoops from Josephine Diaby, Paula Ellul and even Marcal set off Luxol to an 8-0 lead after three minutes, which was extended to 12-3 after an Antoinette Borg trey.

However, Depiro showed character as they improved significantly at their offensive end and managed to have the game at par, 13-13, at the end of the first quarter after the first hoops from their day’s top point-getter Claire  Ciantar as well as a Noeleen Agius trey and a Julia Xerri bucket.

Midway into the second quarter, another Ciantar basket helped Depiro to a marginal lead, forcing Luxol’s play-caller Santino Coppa to call a timeout.

Play remained balanced with both sides at each other’s heels till late in the third quarter with the game tied at 33-33.

Here, Luxol set off on their winning streak coming off a brace of hoops from veterans Amanda Mercieca and Sarah Pace.

Midway in the final quarter, Luxol were leading 49-35 and though Depiro had respective treys from the Agius sisters and further efforts from the Xerri/Ciantar tandem, the Violets were clearly holding the upper edge as Diaby’s close-range shots and Marcal’s free throws closed off the game in their favour.

Depiro: M. Caruana 3, N. Agius 11, J. Xerri 10, J. Mallia, No. Agius 6, C. Ciantar 17, C. Fenech, N. Ebejer, N. Borg 2, A. Mallia 2, E. Cassar.

Luxol: L. Fenech Pace, V. Selvaggi, S. Pace 7, A. Mercieca 8, F. Camilleri, H. Galea, P. Marcal 7. A. Borg 11, P. Ellul 2, M. Camilleri, J. Diaby 23.

Referees: F. Ciurariu, I. Ciurariu, N. Azzopardi.

Starlites Naxxar           60

Hibernians      54                                        

(11-12, 28-14, 6-15, 15-13)

Starlites Naxxar continued on their winning streak and managed to beat league leaders Hibernians after a game which was decided in the last quarter.

Here, the Naxxar side opened a double-digit lead with Hibernians then frantically trying to get back into the game.

Missed free throws did not help the Paolites’ cause and a final hoop from young Mariah Fenech closed off the game in a definite manner as the gap was then too large with time running out.

The two sides set off at an even pace with Hibs just pipping their opponents 12-11 after 10 minutes of play with the victors having early hoops from Mikela Riolo and Stephanie Davies whilst Kenyotta Jenkins and young locals Ylenia Bonett and Jasmine Abela replied at the other end.

The game seemed to be moving in Starlites’ favour as they outscored their opponents in a double manner, 28-14, in the second quarter.

Amelia Simmons started hitting Hibs continuously underneath the boards assisted by treys from Andrea Saliba and Stephanie Demartino for a 39-26 lead at half-time.

Norbert Borg’s interval pep talk seemed to work as Hibs, again doing without Samantha Brincat apart from other injured players, came out strongly in the second half and managed to reduce the deficit to just three points as Ashleigh van Vliet and Kirsty Caruana added to their other colleague’s efforts.

The game took another twist when Starlites opened the last quarter with three consecutive hoops to reopen a double-digit lead, 52-41, with this margin still present up to three minutes from the final buzzer at 58-48.

Hibs tried one last big push and had six straight points off Jenkins but then missed four free throws. Starlites then took the opportunity to close off the game with a final hoop.

Starlites: A. Saliba 3, M. Riolo 9, M. Fenech, S. Farrugia Tabone, M. Bonett 2, S. DeMartino 15, K. Portelli, A. Simmons 24, M. Fenech 4, S. Davies 2, C. Curmi 1.

HIBERNIANS: E. Farrugia, K. Conti, Y. Bonett 15,  A. Van Vliet 6,  J. Abela 3, C. Camilleri, K. Jenkins 24, N. Farrugia, K. Caruana 6, K. Fenech, J. Dabic.

Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Simic, i. Ciurariu

Standings: Hibernians 8/4 (20); ARMS Depiro 6/6 (18); Starlites Naxxar 6/6 (18); Caffe Moak Luxol 4/8 (16).

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