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Luxol down Starlites Naxxar to reach women’s league final series

Luxol's Palmira Marcal (left) moves past Mikela Riolo. Photo: Wally Galea

Caffe Moak Luxol         54

Starlites Naxxar           48

(13-15, 8-13, 16-9, 17-11)

Caffe Moak Luxol and Starlites Naxxar faced each other in game two of the play-off semifinal series after that Luxol had taken a 1-0 lead with a double-digit win seven days earlier.

The pressure was clearly on Starlites’ side as they knew well enough that only a win could keep them alive in the series and force the deciding game three.

Starlites had an eight-point lead in the first half but then lost this advantage when they were hit with a combined 21-3 Luxol run, in between the end of the third and the start of the last quarter, which put the Violets 48-37 ahead and in a good position to register the final win.

The lead changed hands four times in the first quarter with both sides looking wary of each other given the importance of the game.

Amelia Simmons set Starlites off with the encounter’s first hoop but Luxol replied immediately as Paula Ellul and Josephine Diaby combined for five points on the trot.

The Naxxar side were boosted with the return from an injury layoff of their shooting forward Stephanie Demartino and the latter nailed a trey followed by a similar long-distance conclusion from Mikela Riolo who had a fine offensive showing ending with a 17-point tally, including three three-balls, and an extensive defensive effort.

At the other end, Brazilian Palmira Marcal notched her first hoops with a brace of treys to place Luxol back, albeit momentarily, in the lead.

However, Starlites managed to thwart Luxol’s zone defence as Riolo’s second trey and a late Maria Bonett basket placed them 15-13 ahead after the first quarter.

With Riolo and Demartino grabbing further treys, Starlites moved 25-23 ahead, midway in the second quarter and although Luxol had some plays converted by Marcal, it was still Starlites who maintained the upper hand and a late long ranger from young Andrea Saliba made it a 28-21 game at the interval.

This margin persisted for the first part of the third quarter as another Riolo hoop, following an Ellul basket at the other end, made it 34-27.

However, here Luxol seemed to find their tempo as they hit their opponents with a 10-0 run, with seven of the points coming off Marcal who ended with an impressive 30 points in this game with six treys, three of them in the final quarter.

Starlites finally ended their drought with a late third quarter Demartino three-ball which made it a 37-37 game with one quarter to go.

Luxol surprised Starlites at the start of the last rubber as they registered another double-digit streak, this time, a very influential 11-0 run, with two Marcal three-pointers and a Sarah Pace bucket.

Facing a 37-48 scoreline and knowing that a win was a must to extend this semifinal series, Starlites made a push and managed to score six consecutive points.

Marcal banged in her sixth trey to recover Luxol’s psyche at this stage. Yet Simmons kept Naxxar’s hopes alive when she quickly replied with a trey at the other end.

Yet Starlites’ last hopes were thwarted when Pace was precise from the long distance and although Riolo did grab a tap-in basket at the other end, time was in Luxol’s favour.

In fact, they moved to the final buzzer with a six-point margin but above all, the second win in the series and a qualification to the league final series, to be played on the best of five format, against regular season winners Hibernians.

Luxol: L. Fenech Pace, V. Selvaggi, S. Pace 7, H. Galea, P. Marcal 30, A. Borg, P. Ellul 8, M. Camilleri, J. Diaby 9, A. Fenech Pace.

Starlites: M. Zammit Cordina 2, M. Riolo 17, A. Saliba 3, M. Bonett 4, S. Demartino 12, K. Portelli, A. Simmons 10, M. Fenech, S. Davies, C. Curmi.

Refs: B. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Ciurariu

The 2021/2022 season is also now nearing its end and the finals period is practically in full swing in most of the various categories.

In the past days, there were some developments in some competitions.

BOV Amateur Men

Hibernians qualified for the league final series after registering their second win, in the semifinal series on a best of three format, against Depiro.

After winning the first game 91-77, Hibs had a strong start in the game and raced to a 19-4 early lead, with four buckets off Chad Patus, as Depiro felt the absence of centre Finleigh Porter.

The Mtarfa side improved in the second quarter but Hibs managed to maintain a double-digit lead and they then extended this margin in the first part of the second half after buckets from Matthew Attard and Shawn Pace made it a 61-39 game.

Depiro did manage to make it a more respectable final score with Adam Chomo grabbing a series of late hoops.

The Paolites will now meet Fusion Simprolit in the best-of-five final series.

Depiro             58

Hibernians      67

(10-21, 10-11, 15-20, 23-15)

Depiro: J. Attard 6, J. Micallef 3, H. Agius 8, D. Magri 6, M. Borg, S. Kenely 1, D. Pisani 6, J. Maistre, A. Chomo 21, M. Baldacchino 7.

Hibs: K. Caruana 9, G. Cassar 4, M. Sampo, L. Borg 10, M. Fall, C. Patus 14, R. Aquilina 5, M. Attard 10, K. Sultana, N. Cassar 6, S. Pace 9.

Refs: Z. Dobrosavljevic, N. Azzopardi.

Under 19 Men

The Under-19 men league is down to the final series, on a best of three format, between Luxol and Hibernians.

Game 1 resulted in a win for the St Andrews side after a tit-for-tat game with the lead changing hands a number of times even if Luxol twice had a double-digit margin, 32-22 and later 63-51.

In both instances, Hibs managed to hit back with strong runs, including a 15-0 first half streak.

The game was decided in the latter stages when Luxol outscored their opponents 15-5 in the last 3 minutes of play with their top scorer Juan Cefai grabbing 19 points in the last quarter out his 47 point tally with seven treys in the game.

Hibernians      77

Luxol 87

(18-24, 19-16, 14-18, 26-29)

Hibs: N Cassar 17, S. Simic, S. Borg, L. Borg 22, L. Attard, M. Attard 15, A. Zelalem 4, M. Riegel, J. Borg, V. Kustidija, G. Cassar 19.

Luxol: J. Cefai 47, N. Engelbert, M. Sciberras 9, A. Trapani 25, B. Debono 6, J. Pace Debono, A. Enriquez, M. Vassallo Pulis, A. Vella.

Refs: Z. Dobrosavljevic, F. Ciurariu, N. Xuereb.

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