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Starlites Naxxar and Hibs battling for top spot in women’s league

Depiro's Kelly Koshuta goes for the basket against Hibernians. Photo: Wally Galea

With just one more regular season game day to go in the MAPFRE MSV Life Women League, the top spot in the standings is still up for grabs.

The first place in the final standings after the regular season offers the opportunity of a direct qualification to the outright play-off finals.

In fact, the second- and third-placed teams will square off for a best of three semi-final series and the winner will then play the regular league leaders in the best of five 2022 Finals series.

Game day 17 led to wins for Starlites Naxxar and Hibs and these two teams will now square off in a direct encounter on the last game day this coming Monday.

Starlites are leading 3-2 in the direct encounters and have a +4 point advantage.

Thus Hibs need to win by more than four points to grab top spot. A win for Starlites or a Hibs win under four points will mean that the Naxxar side would pass directly to the Finals series.

ARMS Depiro’s loss against Hibs meant that their hopes of a playoff spot faded away and Caffe Moak Luxol will surely end in the third spot in the standings.

Starlites Naxxar           60

Caffe Moak Luxol         56

(13-22, 18-13, 15-11, 14-10)

Caffe Moak Luxol seemed to be strolling to a comfortable win after they set off on a very positive note and managed to open a 22-7 lead very late in the first quarter.

Palmira Marcal and Josephine Diaby set the Violets off with early hoops to be then followed by similar plays from Paula Ellul as well as two treys from Sarah Pace.

Up until this juncture, Starlites looked a subdued lot and seemed also to be feeling the absence of their shooter Stephanie Demartino who suffered an ankle fracture in the buildup for this game.

Yet the Naxxar side closed off the initial quarter with a Mikela Riolo hoop followed by a brace of Amelia Simmons mid-range jumpers and then totally reopened the game with the second quarter’s first eight points with two three-pointers from Maria Bonett and another Simmons bucket.

Although Marcal gave some push to Santino Coppa’s girls with two back-to-back long rangers, Starlites still managed to keep close contact for a 35-31 Luxol lead in the interval.

Pace made it a poker of treys and Marcal added her third similar shot from behind the arc for Luxol in the third quarter.

But Starlites were marginally better and a Bonett late hoop helped the Naxxar side to tie the game at 46-46 with one quarter to go.

Points were not aplentiful in the final rubber.

Michela Zammit Cordina opened a Starlites 7-0 run thereby putting pressure on Luxol. The latter did reply with a brace of baskets from their best scorers Marcal and Diaby but Zammit Cordina and Mariah Fenech got important hoops for Starlites which helped them to close off ahead.

Starlites: M. Zammit Cordina 9, M. Riolo 2, A. Saliba, S. Farrugia Tabone, M. Bonett 18, K. Portelli, A. Simmons 23, M. Fenech 3, S. Davies 2, C. Curmi 3.  

Luxol: L. Fenech Pace, V. Selvaggi, S. Pace 16, H. Galea, P. Marcal 16, A. Borg 2,P. Ellul 7, M. Camilleri, J. Diaby 15. 

Referees: B. Vassallo, N. Azzopardi, F. Fabok.

Hibernians      78

Arms Depiro   66

(13-16, 21-15, 25-9, 19-26)

An 18-0 third-quarter streak was the pivotal moment in this encounter which resulted in a Hibs’ win and brought to a close all Depiro’s hopes of a play-off berth.

This game had a series of facets with both sides enjoying particular moments.

Hibs set off with three early baskets through Ashleigh van Vliet and Kenyotta Jenkins and managed to maintain the lead for some minutes only for Depiro to find their scoring touch late in the same initial rubber.

In fact, they had a ten-point run, with the first six points off Kelly Koshuta and followed with close range hoops from Claire Ciantar and Danika Galea.

When play set off for the second quarter, it was now Hibs’ turn to register a 10-0 break including a brace of baskets from the young Julia Dabic and a hoop off Ylenia Bonett.

Although Depiro had two Nicole Agius treys, Hibs still were showing better play and they opened a double-digit 34-24 lead.

However, the half time buzzer had the two sides just separated by a mere three pointer 34-31 as Depiro closed off the first half with Agius’ third long ranger and Koshuta adding another two hoops.

After a respective basket at opposite ends to start off the second half, Hibs registered the influential 18-point run to move 54-33 ahead thereby putting pressure on Depiro who now had a mountain to climb if they were to salvage anything from this game.

The Mtarfa side did improve in their shooting percentage in the final quarter with Koshuta and Agius sharing 53 points between them.

But Hibs were comfortably controlling the game and also finished with five players obtaining personal double-digit scores in this tenth league win.

Hibs: E. Farrugia, I. Agius 3, Y. Bonett 16, A. Van Vliet 15, J. Abela 13, C. Camilleri, K. Jenkins 16, N. Farrugia 3, K. Caruana 2, K. Conti, J. Dabic 10.

Depiro: M. Caruana, N. Agius 20, J. Xerri 1, J. Mallia, L. Duncan, No. Agius, C. Ciantar 4, N. Hili, N. Borg, D. Galea 8, C. Fenech, K. Koshuta 33.

Referees: B. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosavljevic, N. Azzopardi.

Standings: Hibs, Starlites Naxxar (10/7) 27; Caffe Moak Luxol (8/9) 25; ARMS Depiro (6/11) 23.

NEXT FIXTURES

PLAYING ON MONDAY

ARMS Depiro vs Caffe Moak Luxol        18.00

Starlites Naxxar vs Hibs             20.00

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