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Mellieħa Libertas rally stuns Hibernians

Gżira’s Nathan Xuereb goes for the basket despite the challenge of Nikola Vusevic. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Mellieħa Libertas 91
Hibernians 83
(19-22, 22-29, 17-19, 33-13)

Trailing with a double-figure deficit, 71-81, Mellieħa Libertas made a counter strike with an 18-0 late streak in the final stretch of the game to fully decide the game in their favour and make it back-to-back wins in the league.

After an initial brace of baskets from Hibs’ big Serb centre Ivan Demcesen, it was Mellieħa who had a momentary early lead with the first of Connor Ziniach’s impressive 47 points in the game after an earlier Robert Bonnici long ranger.

However, the middle part of the first quarter was totally in Hibs’ favour as the Paolities registered a 13-0 run with their team’s top scorer Demcesen still well in the action apart from hoops from teammates Justin Bogle and Anton Axiaq.

Mellieħa’s drought was set off as they replied afterwards with nine straight points to bring the game at par, 19-19. But an early positive Hibs start to the second quarter had them open another small lead, 28-21, with Bogle netting his second from five treys in the game.

Mellieħa were not consistent in the mid part of the second rubber whilst Hibs kept in their offensive rhythm with Demcesen and Bogle continuing to nail in points for a 44-33 lead.

Although the northerners improved a bit offensively, it was a still a double-figure gap game at the interval 51-41.

The third quarter was a balanced affair as Hibs controlled and neutralised all of Mellieħa’s efforts and even managed to marginally increase their lead to 70-58 with ten minutes to go.

The momentum seemed to be totally in Hibs’ favour as two Luke Farrugia three-balls had them still enjoying a healthy 81-71 lead with less than four minutes to go.

However, here the game changed completely as the tables overturned with Hibs also committing five turnovers in a short space of time apart from some missed shots whilst Mellieħa were almost perfect in their plays with Ziniach continuing to rain points assisted by Vukasin Jandric and David Bugeja.

Despite stopping play with time-outs, Hibs were now a subdued lot and could not stage a reaction as Mellieħa controlled the final proceedings of the game.

Mellieħa Libertas: S. Zammit, M. Falzon 2, D. Bugeja 9, R. Bonnici 15, V. Jandric 13, I. Bonett 2, N. Bukva, N. Jovanovic 3, C. Zinaich 47, M. Formosa
Hibernians: N. Cassar 2, P. Attard, L. Borg, L. Farrugia 10, G. Cassar, A. Axiaq 7, M. Fall, R. Aquilina, M. Attard, J. Bogle 28, I. Demcesen 30, P. Shoults 6
Referees: I. Simic, I. Ciurariu, V. Nikolic.

Depiro 76
Starlites FIJO 83
(16-16, 19-28, 17-18, 24-21)

After a balanced one and half quarters, Starlites FIJO managed to distance themselves a bit from their opponents and kept the pace to go in for the interval leading 44-35. They then managed to slowly and gradually increase their lead to 62-45 and grab control of the game.

Depiro did manage to have a strong ending with a 13-4 run to make it a much more respectable scoreline, but Starlites never looked in danger of relinquishing their lead.

Depiro started the game with the first eight points, including a Sean Galea three-pointer and the first hoops from their US duo, Kameron Rooks, who finished with 31 points, and Cameron Cornelius.

Two Matthew Attard treys and a tris of buckets from Darius George helped Starlites to overturn the score to a small 16-12 lead late in the initial quarter.

Back-to-back initial second-quarter treys from Galea and Andrew Aquilina gave hope to the Depiro clan as they again took the lead, albeit marginal and momentary as Starlites’ reaction were three consecutive treys, a brace of such shots from George and another from Ian Felice Pace.

Yet, Depiro made another positive push and again regained the lead, 29-27, after they netted seven points in a row,
including a Miguel Brincat long-distance conclusion.

Here Starlites made a very influential streak as they outscored their opponents 10-0 in the next two minutes and then managed to control the tempo till the half-time mark for a nine-point lead with twenty minutes to go.

Despite Depiro’s efforts, when play restarted after the break, Starlites still managed to keep hold of the tempo for a good part of the third rubber.

The Mtarfa side did not stop trying for a comeback and had a positive spell in between the end of the third and the start of the final quarter with an 11-0 run to reduce the deficit to 56-62.

Yet Starlites dampened Depiro’s hopes with a reply at the opposite end with eight points in a row for a fresh double-digit lead and with now time running out.

In the very late stages of the game treys from Nicholas Grech and Cornelius made it a more respectable final score for
Depiro.

Depiro: J. Flagel, S. Galea 14, B. Nel, D, Camilleri, A. Aquilina 12, N. Grech 6, K. Rooks 31, M. Brincat 4, M. Mallia, C. Cornelius 9, M. Debattista, J. Micallef.
Starlites: M. Attard 9, I. Felice Pace 10, M. Fabri 7, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 3, R. Carabott, L. Farrugia, K. Xuereb 4, N. Sultana, D. George 26, J. Notch 24.
Referees: D. Torok, Z. Dobrosavljevic, J. Londono.

Gżira Athleta 78
BUPA Luxol 74
(18-26, 23-11, 15-25, 22-12)

BUPA Luxol had the best start with Trevian Bell well in the action together with a Jean Paul Schembri trey for a 15-5
mid-first quarter lead.

Roland Griffin, assisted by Nathan Xuereb, tried to incite the Athleta squad to up their game but Luxol kept the upper edge in the first rubber as hoops from their two zone players, Tyler Mattos and Stefan Cappello helped them to a 26-18 advantage after ten minutes of play.

Gżira Athleta looked revived as they returned on the court and registered a 16-4 run to take the lead for the first time with Griffin, who ended with 45 points, banging in the hoops at this juncture.

Mattos tried to stop Luxol’s momentary scarcity of points but Athleta managed to defend their slender lead until the half time buzzer at 41-37.

Although Griffin started the second half with five consecutive points, it was Luxol who managed to arrive at a lead change with a ten-point run.

They managed to further extend their lead to eight points, 66-58, after a 9-2 streak spread around the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter.

For the next four minutes, the Violets seemed to be in control as they maintained their positive deficit and moved to 72-65 after a brace of Vusevic free throws.

Two Xuereb baskets, off a Griffin assist and on an offensive rebound, followed by a brace of Griffin athletic plays moved Athleta in front two minutes later.

Following a time-out, Bell put Luxol back in front with 53 seconds on the clock.

Yet, 19 seconds later, Jalen King was fouled under the basket and after sinking his first of two free throws, the ball sprung loose off the missed second shot.

Francesco Mifsud Bonnici was Athleta’s hero at this point as he defied Luxol’s taller opponents and grabbed the offensive rebound and then, with less than 20 seconds to go, managed to score a mid-range jumper.

Pressure was now on Luxol, two points down, but after moving the throw-in ball up the court, Bell’s close-range attempt hit the back rim as King then was fouled on the rebound.

King scored the resulting bonus free throws at the other end to ascertain his team’s victory.

Gżira Athleta: J. King 16, F. Mifsud Bonnici 2, N. Buhagiar, L. Stefanovic 3, J. Ellul Dowling, N. Xuereb 12, R. Griffin 45, I. Xuereb, S. Vincic, R. Abela, B. Zammit.
Luxol: J. Cefai, N. Vasovic 5, M. Sciberras, T. Bell 28, JP Schembri 9, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, T. Mattos 28, M. Matijevic, S. Cappello 4.
Referees: B. Vassallo, F. Ciurariu, N.
Azzopardi.

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