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Gżira Athleta clinch first win as Luxol race past Depiro

Depiro’s Kameron Rooks tries to get past BUPA Luxol defenders in the men’s league. Photo: Jonathan Borg

The BOV League 2022-23 set off in the weekend with the first round of games. Gżira Athleta registered the first official win of the season in the first game when they beat Hibs in a game that saw a number of lead changes and Athleta making a definite move towards victory with an early fourth quarter 16-4 run. Luxol had a convincing win over Depiro whilst Starlites were made to fight hard to get the better of Mellieħa Libertas.

Hibernians 81
Gżira Athleta 89
(24-14, 17-29, 21-14, 19-32)

Hibernians had a strong start after initial buckets from centre Ivan Demcesen followed by three-balls from Matthew Attard and top-point getter Justin Bogle for a 14-4 lead.

Gżira Athleta, now under the play calling of their former veteran coach Joe Galea, could not find their stance in the first quarter and were always chasing their opponents.

Despite a handful of baskets netted by their American duo, Jalen King and Roland Griffin, it was still the Paolites who held the upper edge for a 24-14 first quarter lead with Bogle continuing to lead his side’s offensive forays on the court.

Mainly with Griffin well in evidence, assisted by hoops from the young Nathan Xuereb and Francesco Mifsud Bonnici, Gżira Athleta set off on a positive 18-2 run in the second quarter to now have a lead change in the game.

Although Bogle reignited Hibs’ morale with four points, Athleta still kept nagging at their opponents and a Billy Zammit trey had them 39-32 in front.

Yet, it was a very open, close game at the interval with merely a basket separating the two sides at 43-41 after Hibs closed down the deficit with six straight points before the half-time buzzer.
The third quarter had three main moments.

Athleta first had a 6-0 run very early in the second half only for Hibs to reply almost instantly to bring the game at par, 49-49.

Two minutes later Hibs managed to start a run which led them to regain the lead after an 11-point streak including two treys from Bogle and another from Attard for 62-55.

The game changed lead again in the first part of the last quarter after an influential Athleta run, 16-4, with Griffin adding more hoops together with King, who returned on the court after seeing the bench, due to foul trouble earlier on, as well as Xuereb netting a trey.

Pressure, with the clock ticking away, was now on Hibs and even if they tried to reopen the match, and even netted a number of hoops, they could not close off the deficit as Athleta managed to keep on replying at the other end and also arrived to a momentary double-digit lead very close to the 40th minute.

Hibernians: P. Attard 1, M. Attard 13, J. Bogle 33, M. Bezzina, D. Brincat Dowdall, L. Attard 1, L. Borg 4, M. Fall, I. Demcesen 29.
Gżira Athleta: J. King 19, F. Mifsud Bonnici 9, N. Buhagiar, L. Stefanovic, J. Ellul Dowling, N. Xuereb 15, R. Griffin 38, I. Xuereb 3, S. Vincic, R. Abela 2, B. Zammit 3.
Referees: D. Torok, I. Ciurariu, V. Nikolic.

BUPA Luxol 91
Depiro 67
(24-11, 25-24, 27-10, 15-22)

BUPA Luxol started the league campaign on a positive note with a convincing win over Depiro after a contest where the Violets opened a first quarter lead and never lost hold of the advantage.

The game set off with Depiro being the more precise of the two teams as buckets from Kameron Rooks as well as a basket and free shot from Sean Galea had the Mtarfa side enjoy a 10-4 lead.

However, Luxol turned the tables on Depiro with a 16-0 run which helped them also end the first quarter 24-11 ahead.
Nikola Vasovic showed early in the game that he had a hot hand on the day as he banged in three treys at this stage.

These shots, together with two long rangers from Trevian Bell, helped Luxol to open a double-digit lead.

It seemed that Depiro were going to recover well enough when they started the second quarter with a tris of three-balls from Cameron Cornelius, Andrew Aquilina and veteran David Camilleri respectively.

Gradually, however, Vasovic and Bell continued to notch hoops. Assisted also by the other US import player, Tayler Mattos, Luxol did not take long to re-establish their control on the game and reopen a double-digit lead by the interval, 49-35.

Any thoughts of a Depiro comeback were thwarted after Luxol dominated the third quarter and continued to extend their lead including after a late 9-0 run where Jean Paul Schembri had two treys and veteran centre Marko Matijevic also contributed from short distance.

The last quarter was a formality as the outcome was already decided although Depiro managed to get a more respectable score line as Rooks had a series of hoops whilst Vasovic kept his mark and team-mate Stefan Capello also had three buckets in the final ten minutes of play.

Luxol: J. Cefai, N. Vasovic 33, M. Sciberras 3, T. Bell 20, JP Schembri 6, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, J. Pace Debono, T. Mattos 14, M. Matijevic 3, S. Cappello 12.
Depiro: J. Flagel 2, S. Galea 5, B. Nel 4, D. Camilleri 3, A. Aquilina 11, N. Grech, S. Kenely, K. Rooks 23, M. Brincat 2, M. Mallia 2, C. Cornelius 11, M. Debattista 4.
Referees: D. Torok, F. Ciurariu, N. Azzopardi.

Starlites Fijo 87
Mellieħa Libertas 80
(25-22, 22-18, 18-22, 22-18)

The last match in the programme proved to be a very entertaining and close affair between two sides which look to be among the main protagonists this season.

This encounter had various facets but neither side could take full control of the game.

The first quarter had even a change of lead. Starlites were the first to jump ahead, 14-8, with Matthew Scerri well on song early on with two treys and a hoop.

Mellieħa hit back with a 10-0 run inspired by Connor Zinaich and a brace of David Bugeja baskets but their new lead was short-lived as the Naxxar side hit back with eight consecutive points with their import players, Darius George and Jordan Notch, starting to find their mark.

Although Mellieħa managed to get the game at par, 27-27, early in the second quarter, the reigning champions did not
take long again to reopen a lead and they continued to administer it to a 47-40 halftime advantage.

Midway into the third quarter, many of those present in Ta Qali must have thought that the game was taking a definite path after Starlites came back from the interval and had a 12-2 streak including more treys from Scerri as well as Ryan Carabott and the gap between the teams increased to 17 points.

However Mellieħa showed a lot of composure and resolute when they gradually started gnawing away at this deficit and slowly but gradually came back within striking distance for a tight 62-65 score at the end of the third quarter with ex-Starlites player Robert Bonnici also reaching personal double-digit points.

The game was again wide open and to play for although Starlites, once again opened strongly after the final inter-quarter interval. With captain Alec Felice Pace grabbing also a brace of hoops, Starlites moved 79-72 ahead.

But more was to come in the game as Bugeja and Vukasin Jandric led Mellieha to a comeback and a tight 80-82 score.

The last minute saw emotional play at both ends and Starlites ascertained themselves of the win with five free throws to take the game away from Mellieħa’s reach.

Starlites: A. Felice Pace 14, M. Attard 3, I. Felice Pace 2, M. Fabri, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 16, R. Carabott 5, L. Farrugia, K. Xuereb 7, N. Sultana, D. George 16, J. Notch 24.
Mellieħa: S. Zammit 4, D. Bugeja 18, R. Bonnici 10, V. Jandric 17, I. Bonett 4, N. Bukva 2, N. Jovanovic 3, C. Zinaich 22, M. Formosa.
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic , I. Simic, I, Ciurariu.

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