Game day 10 resulted in two quite unexpected outcomes as the leading duo, Mellieħa Libertas and Starlites FIJO both lost to Hibs and Depiro respectively.
The latter two teams notched their fourth league wins, now also similar to both BUPA Luxol and Gżira Athleta, but the three points deduction at the start of the season are leaving their mark in the standings as Luxol and Athleta both have a three-game lead and seem almost at bay, for the final two play-offs spots.
Starlites Fijo 79
(19-12, 21-17, 16-29, 35-21)
The height advantage of Depiro’s centre Kameron Rooks and the rebounds game were the main factors in Depiro’s win over the more quoted Starlites FIJO side who presented only one import in the side after Jordan Notch left the squad along the week.
Rooks had an impressive outing, managing 34 rebounds and adding also seven blocked shots apart from 64% shooting summating to 46 points.
From his end, Cornelius, who many times managed his side’s offensive tempo, had 50% shooting from the long range with three from six attempts apart from eight defensive boards and three respective assists and steals.
Team captain Andrew Aquilina also played almost all the 40 minutes and had a good share of this Depiro success and ended with an en-plein from the charity line with six free throws from six as well as four steals in his 14-point game.
Youngster Miguel Brincat also was, at times, entrusted to closely guard and limit Starlites’ import Darius George and finished as his side’s best assist man with a total of five.
From Starlites’ end, George had a double-double game with 27 points and 15 boards as well as a notable total of eight steals. Matthew Attard impressed with his three balls ending with six long rangers from 12 attempts.
Depiro held the lead throughout although there were a few moments when Starlites did jump ahead with the lead changing hands seven times.
After a balanced first three minutes, a Rooks dunk followed by a Cornelius fade away jumper gave Depiro a 10-4 lead.
Although Starlites replied with treys from Attard and Miguel Fabri, Rooks kept on netting hoops, including an unusual trey, for a 19-12 score at the end of the first rubber.
The margin between the two sides never went lower than three for a number of times in the first part of the second quarter until an Aquilina three-pointer started a positive Depiro run which led them to their biggest lead, 42-29, at the start of the second half.
Starlites’ reaction was immediate as they outscored their opponents 11-0 to reopen the game, now at 42-40.
Although Depiro did finally react, there was nothing separating the two sides for the next minutes until, very late in the third quarter, Starlites managed to take the lead and then a very late Attard threeball had them 58-56 infront with the last quarter to play.
The Naxxar side’s last lead was at 64-63, with eight minutes to go, after a brace of Matthew Scerri free throws.
Here, Depiro had an influential a game high 10-0 streak which led them eventually to a double-digit lead despite Attard scoring from the long distance at the other end.
Starlites pressed but Rooks made it a 12-point game, 87-75, with just slightly a minute left to play.
Time was now in Depiro’s favour and they savoured the win at the sound of the final buzzer.
Depiro: S. Galea 3, J. Micallef, A. Aquilina 14, N. Grech, S. Kenely, K. Rooks 46, M. Brincat 4, M. Mallia, C. Cornelius 17, M. Debattista 2, K. Caruana 5.
Starlites: A. Felice Pace 16, M. Attard 18, M. Barbara, M. Fabri 6, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 4, R. Carabott 6, L. Farrugia 2, N. Sultana, D. George 27.
Referees: B. Vassallo, G. Barbara, Z. Dobrosavljevic.
Gzira Athleta 86
Bupa Luxol 91
(22-23, 19-26, 18-22, 27-20)
The game set off on a high-scoring note with the game tied at 15-a-piece after five minutes. Luxol had gone on a very early 10-2 run with Trevian Bell and Jean Paul Schembri landing treys after an initial brace of close-range hoops from Taylor Mattos.
However, treys from Roland Griffin and Luca Stefanovic and a lay-up from Nathan Xuereb helped Athleta bring the game at par.
The two sides replied to each other in the second part of the first quarter with Athleta enjoying a short momentary lead after a Griffin trey only for Mattos to dunk for Luxol with five seconds left for a marginal 23-22 lead.
The lead changed a number of times in the first part of the second quarter with Henry van Herk and Griffin in the thick of Athleta’s offensive action whilst Bell and Mattos where the main references in Luxol’s play.
Bell had an efficient performance netting 33 points with 75 per cent shooting with eight on nine two-point attempts and four on seven three-ball tries. Mattos added 25 points with 55 per cent shooting and also had 12 boards.
As regards rebounds, Luxol had the upper hand and Stefan Capello contributed significantly with 18 boards, including five at the offensive end whilst guard Jean Paul Schembri dished out nine assists.
For Athleta, Griffin also ended with 33 points, similar to Bell, and 10 rebounds. Van Herk had a positive 70 per cent shooting and five assists in a game in just more than 23 minutes of play due to foul trouble. Nathan Xuereb contributed 13 points whilst Ivan Medved shot at 57% and had five boards and a block in 16 minutes of play.
Late in the second quarter, a Nikola Vasovic jumper followed by points from Bell helped the Violets to a 49-41 half-time lead.
Luxol’s lead went up to a maximum 65-49 midway in the third quarter after a Bell long-ranger.
Despite Athleta’s reacted with a 10-0 run, courtesy of Griffin, Medved and Peter Shoults, but Luxol still held the upper hand for a 71-59 score with 10 to go.
A double-digit margin characterised the final quarter as Luxol neutralised Athleta’s efforts.
The latter did make a final, desperate push with points from Xuereb, Stefanovic and Francesco Mifsud Bonnici bringing the game to a mere four points. But Luxol kept their cool, including with two left-handed Bell free throws, to notch victory.
Gzira Athleta: H. Van Herk 15, F. Mifsud Bonnici 5, P. Shoults 5, L. Stefanovic 6, J. Ellul Dowling, N. Xuereb 13, R. Griffen 33, I. Xuereb, R. Abela, I. Medved 9, B. Zammit.
Luxol: J. Cefai, N. Vasovic 14, M. Sciberras, T. Bell 33, N. Engelbert, JP Schembri 8, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, V. Englin, T. Mattos 25, M. Matijevic, S. Cappello 11.
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Ciurariu, F. Ciurariu.
Mellieħa Libertas 89
(27-33, 26-25, 26-29, 10-27)
This was a game of different facets with both sides enjoying the lead for long patches at different times.
Mellieħa had the upper hand for most of the first quarter as they immediately set out in front with treys from Connor Zinaich, Robert Bonnici and David Bugeja and went to a 23-15 lead.
That was until Hibs came back strongly in the dying minutes and managed to overturn the score with an 18-4 run.
Centre Ivan Demcesen again dominated the boards as Mellieħa could not counter his physical presence. The Serb centre had 48 points added with 19 rebounds and five assists.
American Justin Bogle was also very active with 37 points and 62% shooting and 11 boards.
Anton Axiaq contributed with 11 assists and 20 rebounds in this game where Hibs outrightly out-rebounded Mellieħa.
Zinaich was again the Northeners’ main point-getter with 36, shooting at 62 per cent and five assists and three steals whilst Isaac Bonett and Nikola Jovanovic shot well from long-range as they shared seven from 13 attempts between them.
Hibs were always in front in the second quarter with their lead going to a high 11 points, 45-34, after a Demcesen put-back.
Mellieħa reacted after the interval as they managed to also go ahead, 70-65, after a Zinaich fast break.
They held the lead for a number of minutes but a late Paolites’ 11-0 run, with Paul Attard and Luke Farrugia, also netting points, had them back in the lead, 87-79.
The last quarter was dominated by Hibs as Mellieħa could not find their footing whilst Hibs gradually increased their winning margin to a considerable plus 20 in the final minutes.
Mellieħa: S. Zammit, M. Falzon 2, D. Bugeja 10, R. Bonnici 6, I. Bonett 16, N. Bukva 7, N. Jovanovic 12, C. Zinaich 36, M. Formosa, O. Said
Hibs: N. Cassar 2, P. Attard 8, L. Attard 3, L. Farrugia 4, L. Borg, A. Axiaq 5, R. Aquilina, M. Attard 7, J. Bogle 37, M. Bezzina, I. Demcesen 48, G. Cassar
Referees: D. Torok, F. Ciurariu, I. Ciurariu
Mellieħa Libertas (7/3) 17; Starlites Fijo (6/4) 16; BUPA Luxol/Gżira Athleta (4/6) 14; Hibernians (-3)/Depiro (-3) (4/6) 11.
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