Malta’s run in the FIBA Women’s 3×3 Europe Cup qualifiers came to an end on Sunday as they lost 15-8 to Cyprus in the semifinal. The Maltese had already lost 14-6 in their first matchup against the Cypriots on Saturday and this time around, they could not find an answer to the hosts’ dominant play, particularly of Eleni Pilakouta who was a force under the rim.
With the winner of the final being the only side to qualify for the finals in Graz, Austria in September, a win was detrimental, but it was once again Cyprus who were the side in control throughout the game. the Cypriots now face the winner of the Luxembourg vs Ireland game in the final.
Malta started the contest with the same starting three of earlier Saturday’s win against Kosovo as Stephanie De Martino, Ashleigh Van Vliet, and Mikela Riolo took to the court. Cyprus won the toss for the first possession and it was good defence that stopped the Cypriots from scoring immediately. But Cyprus put up two points on the trot through Pilakouta and Petra Orlovic with a minute and a half gone from the game.
Similar to Saturday, Cyprus’ gameplan looked to attack the paint and despite the double-team from Malta players, Pilakouta managed another two points to open a four-point lead for Cyprus.
Vietriki Akathiotou made it 6-0 through two free throws with 6.33 to go and Orlovic added more woes for Malta with another drive to the post. After four minutes of play, Malta finally scored through Samantha Brincat but Tijana Raca replied with another layup.
Brincat added her second but with five minutes to go, Pilakouta put Cyprus up by eight, sending Malta into trouble in the final set of minutes. Malta did recover through a Van Vliet free throw but the 6’3 Pilakouta got through the challenge of Malta’s double team defence yet again to score twice from under the basket.
Brincat got her third make in identical fashion but Akathiotou hit two from the line after Malta’s seventh foul from the clear after Brincat’s hoop.
De Martino managed to reduce the deficit down to six points with a two-pointer in the final 1.43. Akathiotou hit one back but Brincat replied yet again with both players up to four in their scoring tally.
With just seconds to go, De Martino pulled one back again but it was futile as Cyprus’s Akathiotou made another two free throws to go through to the final.
Malta S. De Martino 3, M. Riolo, A. Van Vliet 1, S. Brincat 4
Cyprus Pilakouta 6, P. Orlovic 2, V. Akathiotou 6, T. Raca 1