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Caffe Moak Luxol draw first blood in semi-final series against Starlites Naxxar

Luxol's Palmira Marcal (right) goes for the basket despite the challenge of Mikela Riolo. Photo: Wally Galea

Starlites Naxxar 48

Caffe Moak Luxol     64

(11-16, 13-18, 6-14, 18-16)

Caffe Moak Luxol drew the first blood in the play-offs semifinal series against Starlites Naxxar.

All attention this weekend was on the women’s league given that the previously scheduled start of the men’s play-off semifinals series were cancelled following the decision taken by the MBA Council following the investigation made on the last game in the regular season between Depiro and Hibs.

Both sides were suspended from the play-offs and thus, the other two semi-finalists, namely Starlites Naxxar and Mellieħa Libertas passed directly to the grand final series, to be played on a best-of-five format, with dates of the games still to be decided given the recent turn of events.

From the women’s side, Starlites Naxxar and Caffe Moak Luxol, the two sides which finished second and third respectively in the final standings after the regular season, took to the court for the semi-final series.

These two teams had already met six times in the regular season with Starlites managing to obtain four wins namely in the second, third, fourth and final round respectively and the first two victories with a 13-point margin.

On the other hand, Luxol beat the Naxxar side in the opening round and then again in the fifth round.

However, at this juncture in the season, everything boils down to the play-offs and here, the St Andrews side managed to open an initial lead which may carry a lot of psychological weight.

Now the pressure in the next game is all on Starlites who need to win to keep the best-of-three semi-final series, alive.

Santino Coppa’s girls set off on a better note with Josephine Diaby scoring an early trey and then Brazilian forward Palmira Marcal grabbing a brace of hoops and Paula Ellul scoring a further basket in between.

Starlites’ reaction at this start of the game came through a bucket from the hard-working Amelia Simmons. However, the side led by Sandro Farrugia, managed to settle down and they got into a rhythm and a 7-0 run brought them just behind their opponents.

Michela Zammit Cordina had a bucket and then Mikela Riolo was precise from the long distance.

An Ellul three-ball broke Luxol’s momentary drought and the latter then closed off the first quarter with another brace of Marcal hoops for 16-11.

Simmons grabbed the first nine points in the second quarter for Starlites, who are still missing the services of their injured shooter Stephanie Demartino. However, Luxol were still managing to maintain a slender lead as Marcal’s trey made it 25-20, midway in the second rubber.

The gap between the sides increased to double-digits after Luxol registered a late second quarter 9-2 run with Ellul getting a hoop and a trey followed by Marcal’s free throws and jumper.

In the third quarter, Luxol managed to extend their lead with Starlites just managing to pot six points, five of them from young guard Andrea Saliba.

At the other end, Sarah Pace had three buckets and a late three-pointer and these points, together also from a hoop from young Lisa Fenech Pace, helped Luxol to a 48-30 lead with just ten minutes to go to the final buzzer.

With Riolo and Zammit Cordina finding early shots in the final quarter, Starlites managed to find their momentum and had their best patch in the game and with Simmons later continuing to add to her tally, they managed to outscore their opponents.

Yet, Luxol could bank on their earlier hefty lead even if they momentarily lost their offensive composure.

The margin between the sides went down to ten points but then, in the final stages of the game, two Diaby treys from the top of the key position definitely sealed Luxol’s initial victory in this series.

The two sides will now meet again in Game Two of this semi-final series on Sunday at 1.30pm.

The winner of this series will then face regular league winner Hibernians in the MAPFRE MSV Life Women’s Final Series on a best-of-five format.

Starlites: M. Zammit Cordina 4, M. Riolo 12, A. Saliba 5, S. Farrugia Tabone, M. Bonett 2, K. Portelli, A. Simmons 25, M. Fenech, S. Davies, C. Curmi.

Luxol: L. Fenech Pace 2, V. Selvaggi, S. Pace 9, H. Galea, P. Marcal 18, A. Borg. P. Ellul 14, M. Camilleri, J. Diaby 21.

Refs: N. Azzopardi, I. Ciurariu, F. Ciurariu.

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