Mellieħa Libertas 172
BUPA Luxol 149
The 22nd edition of the Louis Borg Cup was won by Mellieħa Libertas for the first time in their history after they beat BUPA Luxol, who were searching for their fourth Cup success, in the final series over the weekend.
The series was greatly influenced by the proceedings of the first few minutes of the second half of the first game when Mellieħa moved from an almost tied game to a 23-point lead within a few minutes thereby putting pressure on Luxol who could never recover this lost ground. The second game was a much more balanced encounter with Luxol practically throwing away a late lead.
The northerners celebrated their first seasonal success and now will look forward to the playoffs, where there is also a possibility that they will face the same Luxol in the semifinals, as well the Knock-Out final against Starlites next month.
The first game set off with quite a fiery start with the first quarter ending on a 20-20 tied score.
David Bugeja and Nenad Bukva gave Mellieha the early lead with Luxol each time managing to reply quickly through the first bucket from Tayler Mattos (20 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) and free-throws from Nikola Vasovic (14 points, three assists).
Mid-quarter hoops from Connor Zinaich and Vukasin Jandric moved Libertas to a 12-7 lead but, late in the quarter, back-to-back treys from Trevian Bell got Luxol at par.
The second quarter got underway with an 8-0 run by Mellieħa through Jandric and Robert Bonnici but Luxol gradually came back into the game for another tied score, 31-31, with further offensive ploys from Mattos and Bell (18 points, 10 boards, five assists).
The lead changed hands three times till the half-time buzzer with Zinaich’s points just moving Mellieħa 41-39 ahead.
Zinaich ended as the game’s top scorer with 28 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and four blocks, yet had to leave the game injured late in the game and even then had to sit out the second game with a probable meniscus related injury and an initial diagnosis of possibly some two to four weeks out.
Mellieħa also had the disqualification of their captain Bugeja on two technical fouls early in the third quarter.
The first four minutes of the second half proved to be extremely influential not only in the outcome of this game but of the whole series as Mellieha outscored their opponents 16-1 and moved to a double-digit lead.
Although Luxol did offer a small reply through Jean Paul Schembri and Stefan Capello, there was no consistent effort and Mellieħa even managed to extend the lead to 23 points by the end of the third rubber, 74-51.
This margin increased to a massive 31 points, 87-56, midway in the last quarter also after treys from Sebastian Valencia and Isaac Bonett with Luxol managing to bring the deficit a bit down after a late 10-0 streak.
Less than 48 hours later, the two teams faced each other for the second game in the series with each team with a different psychological perspective.
Mellieħa were buoyed by their 22-point buffer whilst Luxol’s pride was at stake as they wanted to provide a fight.
The Violets did manage to halve the overall deficit both at the start of the second half at 53-42 and also a number of times late in the game, including 82-71 with just under three minutes to go.
But Mellieha managed to close the game and series with a 12-0 run, including a late trey, to win the second encounter.
The first quarter was a balanced affair with both sides neutralizing each other and the lead changing a number of times.
Schembri, Mattos, and Vasovic set Luxol going but Jandric and Bugeja quickly replied at the opposite end.
Bell and Marko Matijevic put Luxol 18-15 ahead only for late buckets from Valencia and Bonett to pip Mellieħa 26-24 in front at the end of the first ten minutes of effective play.
Luxol managed to start distancing themselves in the second part of the second quarter after two 8-0 runs so that the halftime buzzer had them almost with a double-digit lead, 51-42.
After an initial Mattos close-range initial second-half hoop, Mellieħa managed to reduce the margin to four points with seven consecutive points inside three minutes through Jandric and Nenad Bukva.
Both sides maintained a balanced rhythm and the third rubber ended with Luxol enjoying a 61-55 lead. But Mellieħa still calmly relied on their first-game advantage.
Luxol still pushed forward and a 13-2 run inside four central minutes of the last quarter had them open a maximum lead in this game, 12 points, at 80-68, and just under 200 seconds to go to the final buzzer.
However, Luxol seemed to dry up whilst Mellieħa started gnawing away at the deficit.
A Valencia alley-oop dunk off a Bugeja assist and, shortly afterwards, a trey 59 seconds from the end made it a tight 80-82 game.
Luxol missed four trey attempts in 20 seconds and then Valencia nailed a final three-pointer with a second to go.
At the end of the game, the joyful Mellieħa players and coaching staff were presented with winning medals by Mark Borg, the son of the late Louis Borg, accompanied by the MBA president Paul Sultana.
The team captain David Bugeja was then handed the winning trophy amidst the celebrations of the Mellieħa supporters.
Mellieħa Libertas 89
BUPA Luxol 67
(20-20, 21-19, 33-12, 15-16)
Mellieħa: M. Falzon 3, D. Bugeja 15, R. Bonnici 6, V. Jandric 17, I. Bonett 5, N. Bukva 4, N. Jovanovic, C. Zinaich 28, M. Formosa, O. Said, S. Valencia 11
Luxol: J. Cefai, N. Vasovic 14, M. Sciberras, T. Bell 18, JP Schembri 2, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, T. Mattos 20, M. Matijevic, S. Cappello 13
Referees: G. Barbara, Z. Dobrosavljevic, N. Azzopardi.
Bupa Luxol 82
Mellieħa Libertas 83
(24-26, 27-16, 10-13, 21-28)
Luxol: J. Cefai 4, N. Vasovic 7, M. Sciberras 6, T. Bell 25, JP Schembri 9, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, T. Mattos 19, M. Matijevic 5, S. Cappello 7.
Mellieħa: M. Falzon, D. Bugeja 18, R. Bonnici 4, V. Jandric 17, I. Bonett 10, N. Bukva 7, N. Jovanovic 3, M. Formosa, O. Said, S. Valencia 24.
Referees: D. Torok, G. Barbara, F. Ciurari.
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