With four game days to go until the end of the MAPFRE MSV Life Women regular season, the fight for the three playoff spots is still in its earnest.
With their weekend win over ARMS Depiro, Hibs are now in the best position in the standings with a three game buffer over the tandem of teams, Caffe MOAK Luxol and the same Depiro, who are jointly third.
The latter two sides will be probably fighting out for the remaining two post-season spots with second-placed Starlites Naxxar and the eventual direct encounter advantage over the five rounds of play may even prove the deciding factor at the end of the regular season.
ARMS Depiro 59
(15-19, 13-15, 14-12, 17-18)
Despite again playing without import professional players, Depiro gave a very spirited performance and were even very close to come out with the win against Hibs.
The Mtarfa side had a fully local squad with Hannah Johnson once again just a spectator on the sidelines together with neo-import signing, Virginia born American Kelly Kochuta, who played her freshman year for James Madison University, who is waiting to make her debut this week.
It was only a small 5-0 streak very late in the game that helped the Paolites open a small lead which they controlled until the final buzzer as before this juncture, the two sides were replying continuously to each other and the lead even changed hands a number of times along the course of the 40-minute game.
Guards Julia Xerri and Nicole Agius helped Depiro to an early 11-6 lead but Hibs, who were not totally consistent in their offensive plays throughout the match, hit back and even closed the first quarter on top, 19-15, following a closing seven-point run with US centre Kenyotta Jenkins very much active beneath the boards.
With young centre Danika Galea taking more responsibility, Depiro again managed to momentarily forge ahead in the second rubber.
But once again Hibs had a good closing to the quarter and a brace of consecutive Jasmine Abela treys and a Jenkins hoop moved them to a 34-28 interval lead.
The balance of play on the court remained present for much of the second half with respective actions at each end being neutralised almost immediately and the game was at par 54-54, three minutes from the final buzzer.
Here Jenkins and Ashleigh van Vliet led Hibs to a five-point run and, with the clock ticking down, pressure was now fully on Depiro.
Noeleen Agius did give them some hope bringing down the deficit to a mere basket but late points from Jenkins closed the game definitely in Hibs’ favour.\
Depiro: M. Caruana 5, N. Agius 18, J. Xerri 12, A. Mallia, J. Mallia, L. Duncan 2, No. Agius 5, N. Hili, N. Borg 2, D. Galea 15, C. Fenech, E. Cassar.
Hibs: J. Spiteri, Y. Bonett 6, A. Van Vliet 10, J. Abela 7, K. Jenkins 33, N. Farrugia, K. Caruana 8, K. Fenech, J. Gauci.
Referees: B. Vassallo, I. Ciurariu, F. Ciurariu.
Caffe Moak Luxol 52
Starlites Naxxar 42
(14-12, 17-4, 9-13, 12-13)
Two double-digit runs in the second quarter and midway in the second half respectively paved the way for an important win for Caffe MOAK Luxol thereby placing them well in position to fight for a post-season play-off spot.
With the score tied at 14-14 early in the second quarter, Luxol hit their opponents with a 15-0 streak with four buckets from Josephine Diaby, a hoop and two freeshots from Brazilian Palmira Marcal and a Sarah Pace trey.
Starlites reacted after the interval with Amelia Simmons and Maria Bonett mostly getting the buckets to reduce
the deficit to six points, 29-35.
But once again Luxol, led by Marcal, came in with another positive run, this time 12-0 to distance themselves quite
considerably from their opponents.
Starlites’ reaction in the final half of the last quarter helped them to halve the deficit. But time was in Luxol’s favour as they controlled their advantage on their way to register their sixth league win to join Depiro in the standings, one game behind the same Starlites Naxxar.
Luxol: V. Selvaggi, S. Pace 6, M. Mercieca 6, F. Camilleri, P. Marcal 18, A. Borg 3, P. Ellul 3, M. Camilleri, J. Diaby 16.
Starlites: M. Zammit Cordina, M. Riolo 1, A, Saliba, S. DeMartino 7, K. Portelli, A. Simmons 24, M. Fenech, M. Bonett 8, S. Davies, C. Curmi 2.
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, F. Ciurariu, I, Ciurariu.
Hibs (9/5) 23; Starlites Naxxar (7/7) 21; Caffe Moak Luxol/ARMS Depiro (6/8) 20.