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Mellieħa Libertas’ fate in their own hands as BUPA Luxol fight on

Starlites player Jacob Bates (right) tries to move past Zachery Hudson. Photo: Wally Galea

BOV League Game Day 13 had interesting outcomes.

BUPA Luxol started off with a hard-fought win over Depiro to maintain pressure on Mellieħa. Twenty-four hours later, the latter registered a very important win over Hibs, after a high-scoring game, thereby retaining a buffer in the league standings over Luxol.

In the other league fixture, Starlites Naxxar had to dig deep to ward off Gżira Athleta’s gallant efforts and finish with a six-point win.

With two matches to go, Mellieħa Libertas who are presently joint third with Depiro with six wins, have their fate in their own hands and may even end up in the third spot in the final standings whilst, at the other hand, also may also end up out of the play-offs.

Mellieħa essentially need just one win from their remaining two regular league games to ascertain their spot in the playoffs.

The Northerners meet Depiro this weekend, with the latter already having beaten them twice in the first two league rounds.

Should Mellieħa win, their spot in the playoffs would be certain but they would still be risking ending up in the fourth spot due to the direct encounters with Depiro if the Mtarfa side beat Hibs on the last game day.

However, Mellieħa could even have a shot to end up in third place in the standings if they then move on to beat leaders Starlites Naxxar on the last game day.

One must remember that the play-off pairings are fixed and the regular league leaders (Starlites are certain of this spot) meet the fourth-placed team whilst the second (Hibernians in this case) and third-placed teams face each other in the additional playoff series.

Despite beating Depiro in the past weekend, BUPA Luxol are now with a far cry, although still with a chance, to make it to the play-offs but it does not depend entirely on them.

They are now two wins away from Mellieħa and their only hope is that they are successful in their last two league outings,

versus Starlites and Gżira Athleta respectively, and Mellieħa fail to win any of their last two games.

This would put them on joint points with the northerners but Luxol have the upper edge over Mellieħa in the direct encounters

Depiro             68

BUPA Luxol     87

(22-27, 20-20, 20-22, 6-18)

Two Jean Paul Schembri treys set off Luxol on an early lead as they then moved on to a 36-22 lead early in the second quarter with their in-the-paint players, William Claiborne and Stefan Capello very active at close range even if Canaan Coffey was being quite subdued by TJ Atwood’s

defensive pressure.

Although the Violets maintained a double-digit lead for some minutes, Depiro started being more precise in their offensive plays, and led by their import tandem, Atwood and Avery Sullivan, they managed to overturn the score in the first part of the second half, 53-51.

With the towering Claiborne again very much in evidence, Luxol gradually again regained the upper hand but Depiro put in a final push early in the final quarter.

However, a brace of treys and mid-range shots from Paul Attard and Marko Matijevic respectively ascertained Luxol’s fourth league win.

Depiro: S. Galea 7, A. Sullivan 16, A. Attard, N. Grech 3, TJ Attwood 35, M. Brincat 3, M. Debattista 4, L. Vella.

Luxol: J. Cefai, M. Sciberras, P. Attard 10, JP Schembri 11, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, C. Coffey 10, S. Opojevlic, M. Mayijevic 6, S. Cappello 15, W. Claiborne 35.

Referees: G. Barbara, F. Ciurariu, N. Azzopardi.

Starlites Naxxar           96

Gżira Athleta  90

(21-23, 25-21, 25-25, 25-21)

Despite being out of the playoffs race and only fielding one import player in the last outings, due to Shawn Montague’s long-term injury which forced the American to leave the country, Gżira Athleta showed immense character and willingness and could have easily ended up winning against the league leaders.

The score was practically balanced all along the way with Athleta’s initial positive three-point shooting in the first quarter increasing their morale and they managed to preserve it till the final buzzer.

Nathan Xuereb and Luca Stefanovic had a respective poker of treys in this game on their way to sharing 44 points between them whilst Zachary Hudson played hard underneath the boards to lead his young colleagues.

At the other end, Myles Thomas was flaming hot in the first quarter, netting 19 of his side’s 21 points in these ten

minutes, including four long-rangers.

Young locals Alec Felice Pace, Matthew Scerri and Miguel Fabri took over in treys in the second quarter as Starlites, who were also behind at some stages, managed to just have a marginal 46-44 lead at half time.

The same margin was present ten minutes later at 71-69 only for Starlites to have a better start in the final quarter, through Thomas and Jamiah Wyndom Haynes, to open a nine-point lead.

Athleta tried to claw back into the game but could not find the same initial precision.

Starlites: A. Felice Pace 22, I. Azzopardi, A. Azzopardi, I. Felice Pace 2, M. Fabri 5, M. Scerri 8, J. Bates 8, L. Farrugia, K. Xuereb 2, J. Haynes 14, M. Thomas 35.

Athleta: Z. Hudson 28, J. Caruana, F. Mifsud Bonnici 4, N. Vella, L. Stefanovic 20, N. Xuereb 24, M. Gouder 11, I. Xuereb 3, J. Ransley, B. Zammit.

Referees: B. Vassallo, N. Azzopardi, I. Simic.

Hibernians      105

Mellieħa Libertas         110

(24-26, 22-26, 26-28, 33-30)

Points were surely plentiful in this encounter where Mellieħa led for the vast majority of the time and Hibs were always searching to get back at their opponents.

Defence was not tight and play was many times transitional, leading to both teams amassing a respective century of points.

Led by their American tandem of Malik Colvin Sheldon and Austin Wrighten, Mellieħa raced to a 21-12 lead. But late treys from Keith Dimech and a David Bugeja hoop made it a tight 26-24 first quarter score.

Play was balanced in the second rubber with Christian Soderholm landing four threeballs for Hibs.

But locals Christopher Julian Cordina, Mirco Azzopardi and Isaac Bonett also were precise from long range at the opposite end.

The Northerners opened a double-digit 62-49 lead at the start of the second half but after a time out Hibs managed to get back a bit on track.

Ivan Demcesen found a set of hoops from close range followed by efforts by Mason Vires and a Luke Farrugia trey.

The last quarter set off with two treys from Bugeja which placed Hibs just behind their opponents and the momentum kept for a tight three-point game, 99-96, with two minutes to go.

Here Mellieħa had an important 6-0 run, through Sheldon and Nikola Vasovic to up their morale significantly.

Hoops from Vires and Bugeja did bring Hibs momentarily just a basket away, 105-107 but closing shots from the charity line ascertained Melieħa’s victory.

Hibs: M. Vires 19, N. Cassar, M. Vucinic, D. Bugeja 28, L. Farrugia 6, K. Dimech 10, A. Axiaq 2, M. Attard, C. Soderholm 21, I. Demcesen 14, P. Shoults 5

Mellieħa: M. Falzon 4, V. Jandric 9, N. Vasovic 12, I. Bonett 5, N. Bukva 10, M. Colvin-Seldon 35, M. Azzopardi 3, CJ Cordina 8, N. Sultana, A. Wrighten 24

Referees: G. barbara, Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Ciurariu.

Standings: Starlites Naxxar (11/2) 24; Hibs (9/4) 22; Depiro, Mellieħa Libertas (6/7) 19; BUPA Luxol (4/9) 17; Gżira Athleta (3/10) 16.

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