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Starlites Naxxar and BUPA Luxol cruise into Louis Borg Cup semi-finals

BUPA Luxol's William Clairbone tries a shot against Depiro. Photo: Wally Galea

The first-round phase of the Louis Borg Cup, a competition whereby qualification and all the rounds are over two legs played within a short span of time between each game, resulted in overall wins for Starlites Naxxar and BUPA Luxol who will now meet Mellieħa Libertas and Hibernians respectively in the semi-final phase in two weeks’ time.

STARLITES NAXXAR           174

GŻIRA ATHLETA  141

The first leg was a decisive factor in this tie as Starlites Naxxar managed to open a hefty lead which was too much for Gżira Athleta to recover in the second leg.

Shorn of the services of one of their American imports, Shawn Montague, as well as local guard Nathan Xuereb, Athleta found it difficult to contain Starlites’ play late in the first leg.

The proceedings were quite balanced until the start of the second half when an 8-0 streak, including treys from Francesco Mifsud Bonnici and Billy Zammit, put them 40-46 behind.

However, from this juncture onwards, the Naxxar side took full control of the game as they started netting points with consistency including a large 17-0 run in the fourth quarter, with Jacob Bates, Myles Thomas, and Alec Felice Pace all on song.

This significantly dampened Athleta’s morale even if they tried to reduce the margin through Zach Hudson and the returning Matthew Gouder.

Despite this, Starlites kept on marching and even surpassed the century mark through a Jamiah Windom Haynes hoop late in the first tie.

The second leg was a more balanced affair even if Starlites could bank on their first game margin and even established an early 23-10 lead.

Athleta showed character when they battled on and gradually not only reduced the deficit but also took the lead following a 12-2 run with Hudson and Luca Stefanovic on target.

Although the lead changed hands, Gżira still had their moments and were at par 60-60 midway in the final quarter.

A Bates trey gave a small leeway to Starlites and they went on to even end the game with a marginal lead for a two-game win in this series and now will face Hibs on the double-header on March 4 and 6.

GAME ONE

STARLITES NAXXAR           103

GŻIRA ATHLETA  74

(24-16, 22-16, 23-21, 34-21)

Starlites: A. Felice Pace 20, I. Azzopardi, A. Azzopardi 1, I. Felice Pace 6, M. Fabri 8, L. Riolo 3, M. Scerri 3, J. Bates 32, L. Farrugia 1, K. Xuereb 4, J. Haynes 4, M. Thomas 21.

Athleta: Z. Hudson 31, F. Mifsud Bonnici 12, L. Stefanovic 3, J. Ellul Dowling, M. Gouder 19, I. Xuereb 1, S. Vincic, J. Ransley, R. Abela, B. Zammit 8.

Referees:  B. Vassallo, G. Barbara, N. Azzopardi

GAME TWO

GŻIRA ATHLETA 67

STARLITES NAXXAR      71

(16-23, 20-8, 15-25, 16-15)

Athleta: Z. Hudson 30, F. Mifsud Bonnici 6, L. Stefanovic 11, J. Ellul Dowling, M. Gouder 4, I. Xuereb 2, S. Vincic, J. Ransley, R. Abela, B. Zammit 14.

Starlites: A. Felice Pace 15, I. Azzopardi, A. Azzopardi 2, I. Felice Pace 2, M. Fabri, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 2, J. Bates 24, L. Farrugia, K. Xuereb 3, J. Haynes 7, M. Thomas 16.

Referees: G. Barbara, I. Simic, N. Azzopardi.

BUPA LUXOL 163

DEPIRO 155

This series went down to the wire with each side having a respective win but BUPA Luxol’s 11-point winning margin in the first game proved instrumental in the aggregate score as Depiro could only win by three points in the second leg.

However the 11-point margin from game one was almost immediately neutralised by Depiro in the second game as three-balls from Sean Galea and Andy Attard added to the initial hoops from the Mtarfa side’s import duo TJ Atwood and Avery Sullivan and had them 16-7 ahead very early in the game.

Forty-eight hours earlier, Luxol had managed to open the first considerable lead in the game with a 13-0 run in the first part of the second quarter.

With Depiro leading 29-25, the Violets overturned the score with a brace of hoops from the towering centre William Claiborne and a tris

of back-to-back long-distance shots from Canaan Coffey.

This run helped Duncan Fenech’s side to go in for the interval enjoying a double-digit 45-35 lead which was extended to 68-53 at the early part of the final quarter with contributions also from Jean Paul Schembri and Stefan Capello.

With replies coming from long range, Depiro managed to reduce slightly the final deficit with Luxol just missing to add a dunk from Claiborne but the game buzzer came just before the release of the ball.

Although Luxol had treys from Schembri and Attard when trying to get back on track in game two, Depiro

were still showing the better play in the first half and Galea and Miguel Mallia’s points helped them to take the aggregate lead late in the second quarter at 40-26.

The pressure was now back on Luxol after the interval but despite their efforts, the Mtarfa side were still managing to keep control of their aggregate lead after a brace of Sullivan hoops moved them 54-40 in the lead halfway into the third quarter.

Luxol hit their opponents with a nine-point run in two minutes of play as Coffey and Claiborne combined well between each other. With one quarter to go, Depiro were enjoying a five-point lead, 64-59, but still needed six more points to get at par, on aggregate, with Luxol.

It was thus an open contest, but Luxol’s long range shooting helped them extensively at this point with young Paul Attard ending with an impressive seven trey total tally.

A late 11-3 Depiro streak helped them again open a marginal lead but time was now firmly in Luxol’s favour as they rested on the first game winning margin to pass this round and now will face Mellieha Libertas in the next phase.

Game ONE

BUPA LUXOL 77

DEPIRO 66

(21-20, 24-15, 16-16, 16-15)

Luxol: M. Sciberras, P. Attard 9, JP Schembri 11, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, C. Coffey 18, M. Matijevic 2, S. Cappello 14, W. Claiborne 23. 

Depiro: S. Galea 3, A. Sullivan 13, A. Attard 6, N. Grech, TJ Attwood 36, M. Brincat 8, M. Mallia, M. Debattista, L. Vella.

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

GAME TWO

DEPIRO 89

BUPA LUXOL 86

(18-11, 25-21, 21-27, 25-27)

Depiro: S. Galea 15, A. Sullivan 32, A. Attard 9, N. Grech, TJ Attwood 23, M. Brincat 1, M. Mallia 5, M. Debattista 4, L. Vella.

Luxol: M. Sciberras, P. Attard 21, JP Schembri 9, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, C. Coffey 23, M. Matijevic 4, S. Cappello 6, W. Claiborne 23.    

Referees: I. Simic, I. Ciurariu, F. Ciurariu.

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