Starlites Naxxar 36
(12-9, 22-14, 17-3, 12-10)
Hibs had won the initial game in the U-19 women’s final best-of-three series with a tight margin, 65-60, but Starlites Naxxar made amends in game two, notching a tighter win, 56-53.
All was set for a close, hard-fought battle in the decisive game three which would determine the 2022 U-19 women championship.
However, this was not entirely the case as Hibs registered a win with a considerable margin at the end, mainly thanks to a superior third-quarter display, and raised the winning trophy at the game’s end.
Although both sides shot practically on equal terms in the two-point range, Starlites seemed to feel more the pressure of the deciding final and had a very low percentage from the charity line, with only five from 19 attempts (Hibs ended with 8 on 17 free throws), as well as only one trey from seven long-range shots.
However, the main influential factor was surely the rebounds game with Hibs completely dominating the offensive boards with towering Julia Dabic bringing down an impressive 13 offensive rebounds from her side’s 28 (Starlites only had four such boards) and this allowed the Paolites a number of second attempts in their offensive plays.
The Naxxar side were better in the defensive boards with Mariah Fenech grabbing 12 of her side’s 33 such rebounds although Hibs were also superior here with a total of half a century defensive rebounds.
Dabic and Justine Spiteri shared 17 between them but the game’s top performer, Ylenia Bonett, managed to grab a tally of 19 own backcourt boards.
Bonett’s sprightly play was a key factor in Hibs opening an early lead as she kept on for a 26-point game, including two treys, as well as a game-high six assists whilst being on court for all the game.
Kelly Conti also went into double figures with 12 points which included two three-balls from five attempts.
From the Starlites’ camp, guard Andrea Saliba had a game-high seven steals as she ended with 11 points, shooting at the same percentage from the two-point area. Team-mate Desiree Camilleri, who ended as her side’s top scorer with 12 points, scored one more free throw than Saliba.
The game had set off quite at par with Hibs just pipping Starlites after a low-scoring first quarter.
The Paolites managed to increase their positive margin to double-digit figures, 34-23, at the interval.
The championship clearly veered towards Hibs in the third quarter when the latter outscored their opponents
who could only bank on just three points in ten minutes of play.
Enjoying a comfortable lead, Hibs controlled the tempo in the last rubber to end up victorious with captain Bonett receiving the league trophy from MBA president Paul Sultana at the end of the game.