The Malta women’s Under-18 squad finished their commitments in this year’s European Championship Division C tournament in Andorra with a silver medal after a positive run and a first-place finish in the group stages. However, they fell to winners Georgia 37-61 in the final on Sunday.
On Sunday, Depiro centre Danika Galea led the scoring for Malta as the only double-digit scorer in Sunday’s final with 17 points, also adding eight rebounds. 16-year-old Galea, who was also part of this summer’s senior team under Angela Adamoli that won bronze in Cyprus, has had a dominant showing throughout the tournament and averaged 19.3 points.
Lika Kvirkvelia led the scoring for gold-medal winners Georgia with 18 points with Natali Chutkerashvili and Salome Svani both scoring 12, Ana Namgaladze adding 11.
Malta hit the ground running, taking the tip through Galea, who was effective on both ends of the court, stopping Georgia’s offence and eventually making the game’s first basket a minute into the game.
After a 4-0 run by Malta, Georgia opened their tally with a shot from the line by Namgaladze. They equalised from a three-pointer by Svani with 6.18 to go in the first quarter.
Georgia took the lead two minutes later through a Namgaladze layup which was to be the game changer as they went on their own 12-0 run. As it got closer to the buzzer, the gap grew into double digits for an 18-6 end to the first quarter.
Georgia added another two makes from inside the paint in between a Lisa Fenech Pace free throw as Malta suffered a lapse in concentration while the Georgians in top form at the restart. They took an 18-point lead with 4.30 to go as Malta struggled to grab rebounds from the barrage of Georgian shots.
Galea, the sole scorer from the field for Malta so far, finally ended Georgia’s 20-2 run with two consecutive makes, and Mariah Fenech made another, as the margin was reduced to 12 with two minutes to go until halftime. Andie Saliba hit a mid-range jumper bringing it to within 10 but Kvirkvelia responded with a drive to the basket to give Georgia a 28-16 lead at halftime.
The third quarter was a mountain to climb. Malta toughened their defence but Kvirkvelia continued to cause trouble nonetheless as the lead increased to 16 for Georgia midway through the rubber.
The gap continued to grow as the Georgians were up by 24 with 2.15 to go after consecutive threes by Kvirkvelia and Svani. However, Malta managed to get back to 19 at the start of the fourth quarter.
It was do or die at this point for Giovanni Gebbia’s girls but makes by Namgaladze pushed back into a 20-point game, and eventually back to 24 in the final seconds as Malta had to settle for second place at the final buzzer.
MALTA D. Camilleri, K. Conti, A. Fenech Pace, D. Galea 17, M. Sciberras, J. Borg 3, L. Fenech 5, M. Fenech 3, S. Fenech Pace 4, A. Mallia, P. Riolo, A. Saliba 5.
GEORGIA N. Chutkerashvili 12, A. Gelashvili, L. Kvirkvelia 18, A. Namgaladze 11, S. Svani 12, L. Abramishvili, T. Gujabidze, N. Sabadashvili, E. Shonia 2, N. Tchankvetadze, E. Tsivtsivadze 6.
Sixth place for Malta’s men
In the men’s Under-18 tournament, Malta had to settle for sixth place after a 73-60 loss to Andorra.
Hibernians’ Neil Cassar was the team’s top scorer with 19, a day after scoring 20 against Moldova, with Connor James and Justin Caruana each adding 12 points, the former also grabbing 10 boards for a double-double.
Andorra, on the other hand, had Carlos Blanquer lead the game with 19 points and 19 rebounds, Ignasi Ribas scoring 12, and Yanis Galera adding 11 in a game they largely dominated bar the second quarter.
ANDORRA H. Diet, M. Pegalajar 8, V. Cruz, C. Blanquer 19, A. Blanquer 9, L. Calzada 8, I. Ribas 12, T. Pertinez 6, G. Rachedi, Y. Galera 11.
MALTA J. Caruana 12, S. Aquilina 2, M. Sciberras, A. Azzopardi 3, C. James 12, I. Xeuerb 6, A. Trapani, I. Azzopardi 6, S. Kenely, N. Cassar 19.