Starlites aiming to crack ‘hard nut’ Libertas
The second leg fixtures of the Louis Borg Cup, held on Sunday afternoon, are set to be a spectacle as both games are as close as ever. While League leaders Starlites Naxxar and Hibernians took their respective first leg against Mellieha Libertas and BUPA Luxol, the pressure is on them as they hold onto very slender leads.
Speaking to the Times of Malta, Luxol coach Duncan Fenech, whose side are only missing a point to level their tie against Hibernians after an 85-84 final score on Friday, said believes his side did a good job and will be looking to build upon this on Sunday (tip-off: 13.30).
“It was a very difficult game for us (against Hibs) because it was our first game without Canaan (Coffey), so our preparation had to be different than usual, and also, we didn’t know how the others (Hibs) would play against us,” Fenech said.
“But I believe that once again, we managed to perform well and we adapted well to what was happening. I don’t believe they expected us to be so strong and I think we did a good job.”
The recent setback of playing without their prolific scorer Canaan Coffey will be something the side will have to overcome after the player suffered an injury against the same Hibs in the league and will naturally be out on Sunday as well.
Asked about the second leg, Fenech believes consistency is key. This comes particularly since his side has become one of the hottest teams in the second half of the season.
“In my eyes, we need to play our own game and we must be consistent. We have to avoid turnovers and be unafraid of their pressure and then we will see what happens,” Fenech insists.”
“All those who spoke about us without Coffey thought we were going to be disadvantaged. We knew about our problem – we were missing the right player. It was a decision we had taken to have him in December but COVID is unpredictable and there was a delay.
“Once we got the role player that we needed, we started picking up. I don’t think we are at our peak, we still have a lot of work to do and without Canaan (Coffey) unfortunately, we are missing a step – but that’s all it is.
“But the progression is something we were expecting – the only issue is that it started late.”
‘Tough nut to crack’
In the earlier game of the day, Starlites carry with them a six-point lead over Mellieha (first leg: 90-84) but coach Paul Ferrante will be wary of his opponents.
“Mellieha are proving to be a hard nut to crack,” Ferrante admits.
“On our part, we need to focus on doing the simple things right. Whenever we were patient and disciplined things went our way. Even though at one point we had a double-digit lead (on Friday), we were careless at times and gave away possessions through some unforced errors. Again, hats off to Mellieha for what they are managing to do in this second part of the season.”
Speaking about Sunday’s game, the Starlites coach was straight to the point about his side’s ambitions, saying they were looking towards another final.
“Our aim will be to make it through the semis, the best way to go through would be through another win. Another final would be key in the build-up for the playoffs with the right mentality,” he said.
Despite this, his side will have to focus on ways to go about it possibly without import player Jacob Bates who Ferrante described as being “not 100%” due to injury. Added to him is Louie Farrugia who is also in recovery from injury.
“Unfortunately we have Jacob Bates who is not 100%. As a matter of fact, he managed to give us 10 minutes last game, but we are still evaluating the situation,” he admitted.
“Louie Farrugia is also recovering from a nagging injury, this too will be evaluated hours before the game. Our game plan will depend on these players’ availability.”