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Starlites Mazars crowned U-16 boys champions after tight series

Depiro              53

Starlites Mazars           67

(16-10, 4-22, 13-16, 20-19)

The 2022 St James Hospital Under 16 Boys championship had to go right down to the wire as the best-of-three final series was decided in the third encounter after respective wins by both finalists in the first two games.

Played in front of a nice, rowdy crowd, the decisive final produced some interesting facets although it was clear that a number of players were feeling the ‘weight’ of this important contest.

Depiro had a great start to the game by grabbing the first eight points for a very early 8-0 lead.

Nikol Mifsud set off with a trey followed by a bucket and then colleague Luke Attard added a shot from downtown.

Starlites finally broke their stalemate with a brace of Alexander Sultana hoops. But Depiro were the more sprightly side at this point and they maintained a lead right till the end of the first quarter at 16-10 after further hoops from Mifsud and Attard as well as Gilbert Spiteri.

However, the game took a very influential twist in the second quarter which was dominated by Starlites as Depiro lost all their initial flair and only could pot two hoops in these ten minutes.

The Naxxar side, coach by Sandro Farrugia, were boosted by a very loud backing from their supporters at this stage as they first set off with a 6-0 run to get at par with their opponents and shortly afterwards went on a 10-point streak which gave them their first lead in the game which they then managed to maintain right till the end.

Sultana notched more points together with a tris of baskets from Kyle Deguara and a three ball from Sebastian Pace.

This positive showing in the second quarter helped Starlites to a 32-20 half time lead.

Depiro’s coach Omar Said surely incited his players to find their rhythm again but they suffered another setback when play restarted in the second half as Starlites extended their lead to 46-26.

The Naxxar side took opportunity to show more poise in their offensive plays and recovered a number of balls to transition on the other side with guards Pace and Kai Fabri well in the action with five buckets between them.

Late hoops, at the other end, from Attard and Malcolm Buttigieg Depiro gave some distant hope to the Mtarfa side as the teams went in for the final quarter at 48-33.

Starlites’ morale continued to soar high when they produced an early 7-0 run in the final rubber with Fabri and Pace concluding on transitions.

Despite the deficit, Depiro did not throw in the towel and kept on trying to get their mark and here they got 8 points in a row to reduce the margin to 13 points.

The Mtarfa side had a positive season as well and should also be somewhat content in managing to stretch the finals to the decisive game three.

But with time nearing the final buzzer, a Pace trey distanced again the two sides and with Depiro missing some mid and close-range shots, the Naxxar side clearly sensed that the win was in the bag and controlled the final stages of the game.

Just a word of criticism in such category play is that, with the game already decided with a minute or so to the final buzzer, all the bench players might be utilised for the sake of savouring the final as well.

The Starlites clan celebrated this championship win and the climax was when they were presented with the league trophy by the MBA president Paul Sultana as players, team officials and supporters joined in the celebrations.

Depiro: N. Zammit, L. Attard 14, T. Fereday, Q. Agius 3, G. Mifsud, M. Buttigieg Depiro 13, N. Micallef, N. Mifsud 15, A. Vella 2, G. Spiteri 6, A. Apap Bologna.

Starlites: S. Pace 16, M. Xuereb, A. Barbara, N. Spiteri, K. Fabri 20, K. Deguara 8, L. Borg, J. Caruana, J. Dimech 6, A. Sultana 17, N. Formosa.

Refs: D. Torok, G. Barbara, Z. Dobrosavljevic.

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