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Depiro back in play-off hunt after Starlites win

Hibernians' Paul Attard goes for the basket against Starlites. Photo: Wally Galea

Starlites FIJO 71
Depiro 89
(12-19, 26-27, 20-20, 13-23)

Depiro notched a second league success over Starlites FIJO and now are challenging for a possible play-off spot.

Similar to the previous league game between the two sides, Depiro won the rebounds battle with 56 (including 12 offensive boards) against Starlites’ 30 and this was a determining factor in this game.

With Starlites lacking the necessary weight under the boards, Depiro’s centre Kameron Rooks made good use of his height superiority bringing down 23 rebounds (seven in offence) whilst also adding 25 points.

Although drawing a blank from six long-range tries, guard Cameron Cornelius had a fine performance as he also ended as Depiro’s top point-getter with 27 points, including an impressive nine from 10 free throws as well as 13 boards and three steals.

The Naxxar side are now awaiting the arrival of their new import player in the hope that they return to their winning ways. Their last lead in this game was in the 13th minute at 25-24, after their game high-scoring run of seven points, but then they always had to face a deficit.

Darius George played all the game minutes and was their main offensive man as he notched 27 points with 55% shooting as well as nine boards and six steals.

Matthew Scerri was the only shining light in long-range shooting for Starlites when he netted four treys on a day when the reigning champions shot only at 16% for three points.

In fact, a brace of Felice Pace baskets, followed by a respective hoop from Miguel Fabri and Louie Farrugia gave Starlites a marginal early lead. But an eight-point streak helped Depiro to go ahead and even close the first quarter with a seven-point margin, 19-12.

Two treys from Scerri, after a similar long-range shot from Matt Attard, helped Starlites to recover the lost ground and then a brace of George hoops had them back in front, 25-24.

Another eight-point run, with Cornelius coolly slicing his way through the opponents’ defence and netting a poker of hoops, moved Depiro again in the lead, 41-31.

Midway through the third quarter, this double figure lead was still evident after a Rooks bucket for 56-46.

Here Starlites started pressing harder and managed to re-open the game, a few minutes later, at 56-58. However, Cornelius again found his shooting hand and by the end of the quarter, he led his side to more leeway in their lead at 66-58.

Depiro set off on a high in the final quarter as a Brincat trey was followed by a brace of Nicholas Grech baskets as the Mtarfa side retuned to a double digit lead, 73-60.

Starlites’ efforts were immediately subdued through the Rooks/Cornelius tandem with Depiro also managing to extend the lead as Starlites threw in the towel in the final seconds.

Starlites: A. Felice Pace 11, M. Attard 6, M. Barbara, M. Fabri 4, L. Riolo 2, M. Scerri 16, R. Carabott, L. Farrugia 5, N. Sultana, D. George 27.
Depiro: S. Galea 2, J. Micallef 3, A. Aquilina 6, N. Grech 4, K. Rooks 25, M. Brincat 16, M. Mallia 1, C. Cornelius 27, M. Debattista, K. Caruana 5.
Referees: B. Vassallo, F. Ciurariu, B. Mrkojevic.

Bupa Luxol 98
Gzira Athleta 79
(24-21. 28-21, 30-20, 16-17)

BUPA Luxol enjoyed the lead throughout this game over Gżira Athleta to savour a win that is quite important for the league standings as it gives the Violets an edge in the race for a play-off spot whilst Athleta now have Depiro lurking closely behind.

The forthcoming direct encounters between Athleta and Depiro now increase more in significance.

Athleta had the misfortune to lose their Canadian centre Henry van Herk through injury at the very start of the third quarter and Luxol managed to extend their lead further as they had further advantage under the boards.

Luxol’s import tandem Trevian Bell and Taylor Mattos set their side’s offensive machine going with the game’s first five points.

These two players had a fine showing on the day with Bell hitting 22 points with 58% shooting, 12 rebounds and seven assists whilst Mattos, who played the whole 40 minutes, banged in 32 points with 52% effectiveness, 11 boards, five assists and two blocks.

Despite Athleta’s first buckets through van Herk and Peter Shoults, Luxol still continued to move on ahead and their lead increased to 19-7.

Vasovic was on the bench only for one minute in this game and his performance was at four assists and 50% shooting for 22 points, including three treys whilst Schembri netted a poker of three balls from seven attempts.

Roland Griffin, Athleta’s best scorer with 34 points, 10 rebounds and two steals, got his only hoop in the first quarter at this juncture and then Nathan Xuereb added a threeball and a layup for a 7-0 streak as Gżira started gnawing away at the deficit to bring it to merely three points, 21-24.

It was still a close game during the first half of the second quarter until an and-one by Marko Matijevic set Luxol going on a positive spurt of eight back-to-back points with Mattos nailing in a fast break hoop followed by a long-ranger.

The lead returned to double-digits and, despite Griffin’s late points, the half time interval had a 52-42 scoreline.

Luxol took control of the game when they managed to outscore their opponents 20-6 in the first five minutes of the second half to open their maximum lead in the encounter, 72-48.

Athleta did try to recover but their efforts were being immediately neutralized.

The final quarter was a more balanced affair although Luxol were always in control to finally take home the victory.

Luxol: J. Cefai, N. Vasovic 21, M. Sciberras, T. Bell 22, N. Engelbert, JP Schembri 14, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, V. Englin, T. Mattos 32, M. Matijevic 5, S. Cappello 4.
Gzira Athleta: J. Ellul Dowling, H. van Herk 6, F. Mifsud Bonnici 6, N. Buhagiar 2, P. Shoults 9, L. Stefanovic 5, N. Xuereb 13, R. Griffin 34, I. Xuereb, I. Medved 4, B. Zammit.
Referees: D. Torok, Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Ciurariu.

Hibernians 92
Mellieħa Libertas 100
(20-26, 19-17, 21-22, 32-35)

Mellieħ Libertas avenged last week’s defeat to Hibernians, to consolidate their top place in the league standings.

The northerners always enjoyed the lead in this game but the Paolites were, for most of the time, very close and were always threatening to overturn the score, save for the last moments of the game when Mellieħa were clearly home and dry.

Hibs had more weight under the boards and Mellieħa had a busy day trying to contain centre Ivan Demcesen.

The latter was many times Hibs’ reference point closing with 34 points, four assists and 10 rebounds and contributing a lot to the fact that the Paolites had superior offensive boards where Isaac Bonett netted the game’s first hoop followed by a brace of Vukasin Jandric free throws.

Mellieħa’s lead extended shortly afterwards with Connor Zinaich’s first buckets on his way to a 44 point game.

A Hibs’ 7-0 run, courtesy of Matthew Attard and Luke Farrugia, made it a momentary two-point game, 16-18, but Ziniach’s jumpers and penetrating lay-ups helped his side to a first quarter 26-20 advantage.

Although never taking the lead, Hibs showed better play on the court in the second quarter. At three instances, following points from Demcesen and Axiaq, Hibs came to just one point away from their opponents. But Mellieħa kept their ground and went in for the interval leading 43-39.

Mellieħa had a strong start when play restarted with a 10-2 run after positive plays by Jandric and David Bugeja.

Following their shaky start to the half, Hibs started finding their rhythm once again and their deficit diminished significantly to 57-59.

The victors returned to a double-digit lead late in the last quarter, 89-75, after a 14-3 streak with three minutes to go.

Hibs made one last effort and they did get some results as they came back to four points away, 89-93 as the last minute started.

Here Zinaich and Bugeja ascertained Mellieħa’s win with seven straight points.

Hibernians: N. Cassar 9, P. Attard 2, L. Attard, L. Farrugia 6, L. Borg, A. Axiaq 17, R. Aquilina, M. Attard 13, J. Bogle 11, M. Bezzina, I. Demcesen 34, G. Cassar.
Mellieha Libertas: M. Falzon, D. Bugeja 17, R. Bonnici, V. Jandric 28, I. Bonett 4, N. Bukva 2, N. Jovanovic 5, C. Zinaich 44, M. Formosa, O. Said.
Referees: B. Vassallo, F. Ciurariu, B. Mrkojevic.

Standings: Mellieħa Libertas (8/3) 19; Starlites Fijo (6/5) 17; BUPA Luxol (5/6) 16; Gżira Athleta (4/7) 15; Depiro (-3) (6/5) 14; Hibernians (-3) (4/7) 12.

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