Gameday 16 from the MAPFRE MSV Life Women’s League sealed the fate of two teams who ascertained themselves of a playoff spot and moved another to a very comfortable position to also advance to the post-season phase.
With three spots up for grabs, two teams, presently sharing the top spot in the standings after this last game day, namely Hibs and Starlites Naxxar, are now sure of continuing to grace the court in the post-regular season.
Starlites notched their ninth league win with a hard-fought success against ARMS Depiro who, from their end, saw the hopes of a play-off spot substantially fade away even if there is a small, mathematical glimmer of hope left.
Caffe Moak Luxol had a quasi-buzzer beater win over Hibs, with Brazilian Palmira Marcal their hero with a mid-range bank shot one second from time, to now move two wins over Depiro with two games left in the regular season.
As things stand, Depiro’s only remaining chance of pipping Luxol for the third play-off spot is if the Violets lose their remaining two games, including the last day direct clash with Depiro, whilst the Mtarfa side must beat Hibs this weekend and then need to overcome Luxol with a hefty plus 31 points positive margin. That would enable them to equal the league direct encounters at 3-3 but surpass the same Luxol in the direct game points difference which presently stands at +30 for Luxol mostly due to their 76-50 win in the fifth round.
Apart from the third spot, the first place in the standings is also up for grabs and this will be sought after as whoever ends at the top of the table at the end of the regular season will qualify directly for the league’s best-of-five final series.
On the other hand, the second- and third-placed teams will have to face each other off in the best-of-three semifinal series.
If the present joint league leaders, Hibs and Starlites, both win this weekend, they will then face each other in the final game of the regular league phase and the winner will end first.
Should Hibs lose this weekend against Depiro, they could still end up first if they then beat Starlites with at least five points in the last game day.
From Luxol’s perspective, they have already played all their six games against Hibs with three games a-piece but with Hibs enjoying a +24 advantage in direct game points.
Thus, the St Andrews’ side only hope of finishing first in the league is that Hibs lose their remaining two games and they need to win both games, including this weekend’s clash versus Starlites with at least a 14-point margin.
ARMS Depiro 67
Starlites Naxxar 72
(13-14, 20-17, 16-17, 18-24)
This was a very balanced affair with the two sides annulling each other continuously in the first half.
Points off Kelly Koshuta and Claire Ciantar had Depiro early ahead but Amelia Simmons carried her side in the first quarter and then a brace of Stephanie Demartino hoops, early in the second quarter, gave the Naxxar side a small lead.
A positive start to the second half with Koshuta netting more points and Monique Caruana adding a brace of hoops, Depiro forged 49-40 in the lead with 12 minutes to go.
Although the gap was diminishing, Depiro still had the lead late in the game until a Maria Bonett basket followed by three-balls from Demartino and Michela Zammit Cordina respectively, overturned the score for 70-65 in Starlites’ favour with less than a minute to go.
Depiro pressed for a recovery but a Danika Galea basket was immediately replied to with final Mikela Riolo free throws to make sure of Starlites’ victory.
Depiro: M. Caruana 10, N. Agius 3, J. Xerri 4, A. Mallia, J. Mallia, L. Duncan 4, No. Agius, C. Ciantar 13, N. Hili, N. Borg, D. Galea 2, K. Koshuta 31.
Starlites: M. Zammit Cordina 8, M. Riolo 11, M. Bonett 17, S. DeMartino 14, K. Portelli, A. Simmons 20, S. Davies, C. Curmi 2.
Referees: I. Simic, F. Ciurariu, F. Fabok.
Caffe Moak Luxol 62
(15-9, 12-14, 13-19, 22-19)
This game went down to the wire and it was only an off-the-glass shot by Palmira Marcal, one second from the final buzzer, which moved Luxol one point ahead of Hibs and the latter did not have the opportunity to try a last-gasp shot at the other end.
Both sides practically replied to each other at a regular pace with neither side being able to open some considerable lead.
Early points from Marcal, Josephine Diaby and Antoinette Borg did give Luxol an early 15-7 lead but Hibs gradually ate away at their deficit and brought the game at par, 21-21, after two treys from Jasmine Abela.
A brace of long rangers from Sarah Pace helped Luxol regain the lead and it was only at the end of the third quarter that Hibs overturned the score after close-range shots from Kenyotta Jenkins and a Ylenia Bonett trey.
Neither side could distance itself and the clock moved to its last rotation with the two teams at each other’s neck. Diaby moved Luxol ahead only for Bonett to bank in two free throws at the opposite end for 61-60 with only seconds to go.
With four seconds to go, Luxol had an offensive endline ball and the pass was made to Marcal off a block and the latter found space to launch her game-winning shot to the delight of the Luxol clan.
Luxol: L. Fenech Pace, V. Selvaggi, S. Pace 12, F. Camilleri, H. Galea, P. Marcal 22, A. Borg 3, P. Ellul 6, M. Camilleri, J. Diaby 19.
Hibs: E. Farrugia, K. Conti, I. Agius, Y. Bonett 13, A. Van Vliet 8, J. Abela 8, C. Camilleri, K. Jenkins 25, N. Farrugia, K. Caruana 7, K. Fenech, J. Dabic.
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, K. Dworniczak, I. Ciurariu.
Hibs, Starlites Naxxar (9/7) 25; Caffe Moak Luxol (8/8) 24; ARMS Depiro (6/10) 22.