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Starlites draw first blood in final series

Myles Thomas chalked up ten points for Starlites against Mellieħa. Photo: Wally Galea

Starlites Fijo 77
Mellieħa Libertas 74
(21-20, 17-16, 15-15, 24-23)

The BOV Men 2022 Finals series, on a best-of-five format, set off last weekend and resulted in a tight three-point game with Starlites, branding their new sponsors Fijo for the first time, having the best of Mellieha Libertas who are playing their first-ever League Finals series.

The game had certain twists and turns even if there never seemed to be a high level of intensity on the court even probably due to the fact of the importance of the game itself and the unfortunate length of time without games in the last days.

Myles Thomas notched the series’ first hoop but it was Mellieħa who took an early lead with the game’s top scorer Nikola Vasovic grabbing a regular bucket and a three-ball on top of the northerners’ first positive conclusion of the day through Malik Sheldon.

Seeming cautious of the fact that Mellieħa had ousted them from the Louis Borg Cup earlier in the season, Starlites pushed hard to get a rhythm and long distance shots from Jacob Bates and Kurt Xuereb got them level.

The teams remained at par for the rest of the first quarter with Austin Wrighten adding an and-one play to Vasovic’s hoops as the latter closed the quarter with 11 points.

Jamiah Windom had a trey to add to his US compatriots Thomas and Bates’ efforts for a tight 21-20 score after then
minutes.

Each side had a respective streak in the second quarter with Mellieħa, who had Vukasin Jandric and Nenad Buvka missing for this game due to a club decision, first opening a 34-26 lead with threeballs from Isaac Bonett and Seldon whilst CJ Cordina netted a spectacular reverse layup.

The Naxxar side’s reply was a 12-0 run including eight points off Xuereb who managed to pot in two treys at this juncture.

It was still an open balanced game halfway down the line with Starlites just pipping Mellieħa 38-36.

The start of the second half had Starlites coming out very strongly off the blocks with back-to-back treys from Alec Felice Pace and Bates which helped them to open a quasi-double-digit lead for a number of minutes up to 53-44.

However, Mellieħa showed character at the closing stages of the third rubber with seven consecutive points so that it was again a two-point game this time with the last quarter to play.

A brace of Vasovic hoops had the sides momentarily at par only for Starlites to quickly open a slender lead with Bates getting most of the buckets for a 70-62 lead.

Although Vasovic continued potting at the other end, the Naxxar side continued adding to the lead with Felice Pace having five points in a row for 75-66 with the final buzzer looming.

Mellieħa did not throw in the towel, however, and kept persisting with Starlites trying to maintain the possession.
In the dying seconds, Wrighten notched a trey to make it a 74-77 game but there was no possibility for Mellieħa to come any closer.

The second game in the series will be played on Sunday at 3.45pm.

Starlites: A. Felice Pace 15, I. Azzopardi, I. Felice Pace 2, M. Fabri, L. Riolo, M. Scerri, J. Bates 28, L. Farrugia, K. Xuereb 11, R. Carabott, J. Haynes 11, M. Thomas 10.
Mellieħa: A. Wrighten 8, M. Falzon 2, N. Vasovic 29, I. Bonett 7, M. Seldon 23, C. Briffa, M. Azzopardi 3, CJ Cordina 2, N. Sultana, L. Tanzini.
Referees: B. Vassallo, G. Barbara, Z. Dobrosavljevic.

BOV AMATEUR MEN

Finals Game 1
Fusion Simprolit 68
Hibernians 73
(14-29, 21-14, 16-12, 17-18)

The BOV Amateur League 2022 title will also be decided via a best-of-five finals series and the finalists are regular league leaders Fusion Simprolit and Hibs who finished in the third place in the standings after the regular league but then ousted second-placed Depiro in the semifinals playoff series.

The Paolites also managed to open a 1-0 lead in the finals series when they had the better of Fusion Simprolit where the start of the game was quite influential on the outcome.

In fact, Hibs opened on a very strong note and raced to a 22-5 lead with veterans Chad Patus and Shaun Pace netting a respective brace of treys.

Closing the first quarter 15 points behind, Fusion started gradually eating away the deficit and managed to finally go 48-47 ahead midway in the third quarter with their trio, Alex Vselinovic, Antonio Ivankovic and Viktor Capkunovski well in the limelight, although the team missed some regulars such as Nikola Bozovic and Nenad Trajkovic.

Hibs rallied well after falling behind and with Patus leading the pack and with a brace of Matthew Attard treys they regained a double-digit lead, 63-53.

Fusion made a final push and even had late long distance shots but Hibs managed to stay ahead with final hoops from Neil Cassar ascertaining their initial victory in this series which now continues tomorrow with game two.

Fusion: R. Zivkovic, A. Ivankovic 18, N. Tosic, N. Milenkovic 5, A. Vselinovic 26, D. Mrdanov 2, M. Todorov, V. Capkunovski 17.
Hibs: K. Caruana, L. Attard, L. Borg 6, M. Fall 2, C. Patus 27, R. Aquilina 2, M. Attard 12, K. Sultana, N. Cassar 7, S. Pace 13, G. Cassar 4.
Referees: G. Barbara, N. Azzopardi, B. Vassallo.

UNDER-23 Men

Finals Game 1
Starlites Naxxar 82
Depiro 70
(18-15, 24-13, 19-19, 21-23)

A positive second-quarter performance was instrumental for Starlites to grab the first win in this best-of-three final series over Depiro with game two now scheduled for Thursday where the pressure is totally on the Mtarfa side as only a win can keep the title race alive.

The game set off with a very balanced first quarter where Ian Felice Pace led the Starlites’ scoring machine with 11 personal points whilst Miguel Brincat nailed in three treys at the opposite end.

An 11-2 initial second quarter run opened a double digit margin in favour of the Naxxar side with threeballs from Matthew Scerri, Adam Azzopardi and Mirco Azzopardi.

Depiro did try to claw back into the game with more balls fed to their towering centre Finleigh Porter as well as points from guard Andy Attard. But Starlites were showing more energy in their plays and went in 42-28 ahead at the interval.

The two sides shared equally the points in the third quarter and the Depiro reduced the deficit early in the last rubber with an 8-0 run and were back in the game for a few minutes.

However a late seven-point run re-opened a 74-60 Starlites’ lead and the latter managed to control the tempo till the final buzzer.

Starlites: I. Azzopardi 2, A. Azzopardi 12, M. Azzopardi 8, I. Felice Pace 19, M. Fabri 10, L. Riolo 2, M. Scerri 17, L. Farrugia 12, A. Xuereb.
Depiro: S. Galea 6, D. Magri, J. Micallef, L. Attard, A. Attard 9, F. Porter 23, M. Brincat 20, M. Mallia 4, M. Baldacchino, M. Debattista 6, L. Vella, N. Pace 2.
Referees: B. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosavljevic, N. Azzopardi.

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