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Starlites Fijo beat Mellieħa Libertas to close in on men’s league title

Starlites Fijo's Alec Felice Pace goes for the basket against Mellieħa Libertas. Photo: Wally Galea

Mellieħa Libertas         74

Starlites Fijo   92

(17-23, 18-23, 18-22, 21-24)

Game one of the BOV Men 2022 Finals best-of-five series had ended with a tight 77-74 Starlites FIJO win.

Fast forward one week and this time, Starlites managed to register a more pronounced victory over Mellieħa Libertas who tried hard to keep contact but a patch between the end of the third quarter and start of the final session, and an 18-1 run, proved crucial leading to Starlites’ win.

Mellieħa had a sprightly start with five consecutive Austin Wrighten points, including an initial trey, only for Starlites to reply with a brace of Alec Felice Pace long-rangers followed by the first Jacob Bates’ hoop in the game.

It was a fully balanced affair when CJ Cordina copied Wrighten with five points of his down the trot and play continued to be shared at both ends for a tight 23-22 Starlites’ lead very early in the second quarter.

Midway in the second rubber, the Naxxar side registered a 10-2 run to move 35-26 ahead with Bates and Myles Thomas grabbing most of the buckets.

Mellieħa, who again had to do without the duo Jandric and Bukva, both suspended by the club just ahead of the start of this finals series for reasons still not made public, did have some reaction mainly through Sheldon.

But Starlites managed to close the first half with a double-digit lead, 46-35, after late treys from Alec Felice Pace and Louie Farrugia.

The start of the second half witnessed a mini Mellieħa comeback with Cordina well in rhythm.

But their early efforts received a setback late in the third quarter as treys from Jamiah Windom and Ian Felice Pace were then followed by eight straight points at the start of the last quarter so that Starlites were now enjoying a considerable lead, 76-53.

The northerners came up with their last push but the margin was now quite extensive despite that trio Wrighten, Sheldon and Cordina reached the 20-point personal mark.

At the opposite end, Starlites kept their composure and coolly administered the last minutes also with bench players on the court.

The third game in the series will now be played on Sunday.

With Starlites FIJO leading the series 2-0, Mellieħa can only extend the series further with a win to force game four and hope for a turnaround.

On the other hand, victory for Starlites in the coming weekend will land the league trophy at their club.

Mellieħa: A. Wrighten 24, M. Falzon 3, N. Vasovic, I. Bonett 7, M. Seldon 20, C. Briffa, M. Azzopardi, CJ Cordina 20, N. Sultana, L. Tanzini.

Starlites: A. Felice Pace 21, A. Azzopardi, I. Felice Pace 10, M. Fabri 3, L. Riolo, M. Scerri, J. Bates 19, L. Farrugia 3, K. Xuereb 2, R. Carabott, J. Haynes 12, M. Thomas 22.

Referees: D. Torok, N. Azzopardi, F. Ciurariu.

BOV Amateur League Men

Hibernians    74

Fusion Simprolit           51

(27-16, 18-3, 14-23, 15-9)

With Fusion Simprolit running very thin in player availability due to injuries and players outside the island, Hibs took the full opportunity to run away with game two in the finals series to go 2-0 ahead and are now just a win away from winning the amateur league trophy in this best-of-five finals series.

With only six players on the roster for this game, Fusion could not match their opponents’ pace and things started looking bleaker after the Paolites set off on a strong note to quickly open a double-digit lead.

Led by Canadian Chad Patus, who had a very efficient shooting percentage in this game, Hibs gradually extended their lead as time went by with all their 11 players on the game roster managing to grab a hoop in this final.

Modou Fall used well his towering height advantage and grabbed a number of defensive boards. In fact, Hibs clearly won the defensive rebounds game as Fusion had only Nikola Tosic who was posing a threat in searching for a second try after any failed Fusion attempt at Hibs’ basket.

Fusion somewhat improved at the start of the second half. But Hibs regained their control later in the same half when they returned to notching several transition baskets.

Game three is now scheduled for this Saturday and here the pressure is totally on Fusion as the Balkan side need to win to keep their title hopes alive.

Hibs: N. Cassar 4, K. Caruana 5, L. Attard 5, M.Sampo 2, l. Borg 2, M. Fall 12, R. Aquilina 9, C. Patus 18, M. Attard 8, K. Sultana 3, G. Cassar 6.

Fusion: R. Zivkovic 2, N. Tosic 4, M. Milenkovic 12, D. Mirdjanov 12, M. Todorov 9, V. Capkanovski 12.

Refs: B. Vassallo, D. Torok, N. Azzopardi.

Men Under 23

Depiro            79

Starlites Naxxar           90

(26-16, 15-26, 25-20, 13-28)

A lead changing fourth quarter 21-4 Starlites’ run was the turning point in this second game of the U-23 finals series.

This streak paved the way for a very late double-digit lead which spearheaded Starlites not only to victory in this game but also the league championship since they had already beaten Depiro 82-70 in game one of this best-of-three finals series.

Captain Matthew Scerri, who was later presented with the league trophy by the MBA president Paul Sultana after the game, and guard Ian Felice Pace led their side’s efforts in the final quarter with Scerri managing to grab 17 points in the final rubber to end with an impressive 31-point tally with four shots from downtown.

The victors also had Mirco Azzopardi landing five treys earlier on in the game whilst young Adam Azzopardi had a tris of three-balls in the third quarter.

On the other hand, Depiro had their good moments in this final, led by the towering Finleigh Porter who was utilised quite well by his team-mates in certain stretches of the game and ended just short of a half century personal mark with 47 points spread quite evenly between the four quarters.

Porter’s hoops and an Andy Attard trey helped Depiro to a 26-15 lead in the ninth minute and it was only then in the final stages of the first half that Starlites managed to neutralise the deficit with a series of treys for a 42-41 interval score.

Depiro once again had the upper edge in the third quarter and with Miguel Brincat and Michael Debattista assisting Porter, the Mtarfa side again opened a nine-point lead, 57-48.

The margin between the two sides was of six points, 71-65, very early in the last rubber. But here Starlites set off with their game-winning streak, including 10 consecutive points, to move to 85-75 ahead with just over a minute left in the game.

Two Porter baskets were not enough as Starlites hit back with a Scerri trey to fully ascertain Starlites’ success in this category.

Depiro: S. Galea 2, J. Micallef, L. Attard, A. Attard 6, F. Porter 47, S. Kenely, M. Brincat 13, M. Mallia 3, M. Baldacchino, M. Debattista 6, L. Vella, N. Pace 2.

Starlites: I. Azzopardi 2, A. Azzopardi 11, M. Azzopardi 21, I. Felice Pace 16, M. Fabri, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 31, L. Farrugia 9, A. Xuereb.

Refs: G. Barbara, Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Ciurariu

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