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Mellieħa ease past Depiro as Hibernians bag first win

Hibernians import player Justin Bogle holds possession for his side against Luxol. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Mellieħa Libertas 90
Depiro 66
(20-17, 20-16, 27-17, 23-16)

Mellieħa Libertas obtained their third league win from four matches when they had the better of Depiro.
The northerners’ success materialised in the second part of the game when they started distancing themselves from
the Mtarfa-based team who had managed to keep close contact in the first 20 minutes of effective play.

A three-pointer from Nicholas Grech gave Depiro a very early lead but with Connor Zinaich immediately pressuring the opponents’ defence, Mellieħa did not take long to jump in front for a 15-8 lead after just over half of the first quarter played.

The gap did increase to double figures after a Nikola Jovancic threeball and a Miguel Falzon hoop.

But Depiro managed to claw back into the game by the end of the first quarter as they bounced back with a 7-0 run with their import duo Cameron Cornelius and Kameron Rooks sharing the points.

Depiro’s morale was high and they made it a closer two-point game at 24-26 after a brace of hoops from Grech and Sean Galea respectively.

Zinaich inspired his team with two long-rangers in a short span of time to again help Mellieħa to open a slender advantage by the half-time buzzer, 40-33, with Isaac Bonett also adding a couple of buckets at this stage.

Depiro did try hard to maintain the pace in the second half and managed to do so for the first part of the third quarter.

But a Mellieħa run, through more Zinaich hoops and treys from Jovancic, Robert Bonnici and Vukasin Jandric respectively, moved them ahead with a double figure lead once again.

A series of freethrows early in the last quarter continued to extend Mellieħa’s lead and the game was then a foregone conclusion in the latter minutes with both sides sharing play.

MELLIEHA: S. Zammit 6, M. Falzon 6, D. Bugeja 2, R. Bonnici 7, V. Jandric 12, I. Bonett 11, N. Bukva 1, N. Jovanovic 15, C. Zinaich 28, M. Formosa 2.
DEPIRO: J. Flagel, S. Galea 6, J. Micallef, N. Grech 8, K. Rooks 22, M. Brincat 3, M. Mallia, C. Cornelius 24, M. Debattista 3.
Referees: B. Vassallo, F. Ciurariu, J. Londono.

Hibernians 81
BUPA Luxol 60
(24-10, 20-9, 16-14, 21-17)

A strong opening paved the way for a comfortable Hibs win, their first in the league so far, over BUPA Luxol with the latter not able to find their rhythm in the first half which ended with the Paolites leading 44-19.

In fact, Justin Boyle and Ivan Demcesen set the Hibs’ offensive machine in gear with the first six points of the game.
Luxol committed a number of turnovers and Hibs benefitted to increase their lead with the same Boyle/Demcesen
tandem well in the thick of the action as well as a Paul Attard trey.

Three quick early second-quarter hoops from the victors extended their lead to 30-10 possibly to the surprise of all those present watching this game who were expecting a much tighter and keenly contested encounter.

If people were expecting a reaction by Luxol after the interval, this was not the case.

Although the St Andrews side had an early Nik Vasovic threeball, it was Hibs who kept marching on and a 16-4 run put them to a 60-26 lead.

Luxol did improve from this juncture till the game-ending buzzer and managed to register a more respectable scoreline as they had late points from their centre Tayler Mattos as well as two treys from Alessio Trapani.

Hibs, however, were never in danger as they administered the game tempo with Boyle just coming a point short from
closing with 40 points in this first Hibs’ league success which set them off in the table after starting the campaign with three points deducted following disciplinary proceedings last season.

HIBERNIANS: P. Attard 3, R. Aquilina, M. Vucinic, P. Shoults 6, J. Bogle 39, A. Axiaq 8, N. Cassar 6, L. Borg, M. Fall 2, L. Farrugia 4, L. Attard, I. Demcesen 13.
LUXOL: J. Cefai, N. Vasovic 8, M. Sciberras 3, T. Bell 13, JP Schembri, A. Trapani 6, L. Trapani, T. Mattos 23, M. Matijevic 7.
Referees: N. Azzopardi , I. Ciurariu, J. Londono.

Gżira Athleta 83
Starlites FIJO 92
(24-30, 20-23, 18-24, 21-15)

League leaders Starlites FIJO maintained their unbeaten run as they made it four wins in a row after a hard-fought victory over Gżira Athleta who now stand with two wins and two losses in the league standings.

Starlites, missing the injured Kurt Xuereb, had a positive start, opening a 15-5 lead after a few minutes with their US players Jordan Notch and Darius George immediately commencing to net hoops. This duo shared 50 points between them in this game.

Moments later, at the opposite end, treys from Nathan Xuereb and Luca Stefanovic added to initial points from Athleta’s top point-getter Rolan Griffin as the gap between the two sides on court came down to merely three points, 19-22.

It was thanks to threeballs from Matthew Scerri and Ian Felice Pace that the Naxxar side enjoyed a small 30-24 lead after the first quarter.

The second quarter was a balanced affair with Starlites managing to defend their lead as Athleta were trying hard to eradicate the deficit. It was thanks to a late 7-2 run that Starlites were leading 53-44 at the half-time interval.

The second half got underway with Athleta netting a brace of Jalen King hoops followed by a shot from Francesco Mifsud Bonnici.

Yet, at this stage, Starlites made an influential streak as they hit their opponents with a 13-2 run to again enjoy the upper edge on court.

Maltese-Australian Matthew Attard was their hero at this point with a tris of three pointers.

The final quarter started with a Ryan Carabott long-ranger for 80-62. Griffin tried to inspire his Athleta colleagues only for Alec Felice Pace to nail in a further trey for Starlites’ lead to now move to 85-67.

Athleta showed resilience as they did not quit but again searched for a good moment and they managed to score 12 consecutive points, through Griffin, Xuereb and King, to come within six points away from their opponents, 79-85.
The game lit up again and a minute later another Xuereb hoop helped Gżira to a closer margin, 83-87.

The time was running out and in the dying seconds Starlites made sure of the victory after a George basket followed by some shots from the charity line.

GZIRA ATHLETA: J. King 17, F. Mifsud Bonnici 5, N. Buhagiar, L. Stefanovic 3, J. Ellul Dowling 2, N. Xuereb 16, R. Griffin 40, I. Xuereb, S. Vincic, R. Abela, B. Zammit.
STARLITES: A. Felice Pace 9, M. Attard 11, I. Felice Pace 13, M. Fabri, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 4, R. Carabott 5, L. Farrugia, N. Sultana, D. George 24, J. Notch 26.
Referees: B. Vassallo, F. Ciurariu, I. Ciurariu.

STANDINGS: Starlites FIJO 8; Mellieħa Libertas 7; Gżira Athleta 6; BUPA Luxol 5; Depiro
(-3)/Hibernians (-3) 2.

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