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Late spurt hands Starlites Naxxar an opening win

Monique Caruana, of Depiro, moves past Nicole Schembri, of Starlites. Photo: Wally Galea.

Arms Depiro   42

Starlites Naxxar GIG    54

(9-2, 15-19, 8-12, 10-21)

The lack of official match practice and the long layoff clearly left its mark for Arms Depiro and Starlites Naxxar as they battled out a low scoring match.

Starlites only managed to distance themselves in the closing stages of the encounter with three long distance shots that proved fruitful for their win in this opening game of the 2020-21 women season.

One had to wait until the fifth minute of play to have the season’s first hoop with Depiro’s import player, the returning Hannah Johnson, finding the basket followed shortly by team-mate Nicole Agius.

Starlites could only reply a minute later when Maria Bonett notched what ultimately was Naxxar’s only basket in the first ten minutes of play with Depiro extending their opening quarter lead to 9-2 with another Johnson close-range shot and a Monique Caruana three ball.

For Caruana this was her debut for the Mtarfa side after joining them this summer from Luxol.

Although Stephanie Demartino tallied up a trio of hoops for the 2019 champions, Depiro still maintained their seven-point lead at 15-8 in the 13th minute.

Here, Starlites had an 11-2 run to overturn the score momentarily in their favour until first half last minute buckets from Julia Xerri and Johnson took both sides to the interval with Depiro enjoying a 24-21 lead.

Things did not change much when play restarted after the interval as both sides kept very close.

Starlites had a better start with a three-basket consecutive spread and they then maintained a slender lead till the end of the quarter when a Thea Mifsud free throw had Depiro close the margin to a single point for 32-33.

Four Patricia Arguello points, incidentally her first in the game, around a Demartino hoop had the Naxxar side registering another 6-0 run.

Although Depiro replied with a Nicole Agius one shot of two from the charity line, Arguello banged in a trey at the other end thus putting her side 44-38 ahead with three minutes to go.

Depiro did try to hit back but Naxxar, with their marginally better shooting and less turnovers on the day, made certain of their win with a decisive ten-point break including final long distance shots from their double digit duo Demartino and Arguello.

Depiro: No. Agius, M. Caruana 6, N. Agius 10, T. Mifsud 1, L. Duncan 2, J. Borg, C. Ciantar 4, J. Xerri 2, N. Hili, H. Johnson 17, N. Borg

Starlites: M. Zammit Cordina 5, C. Cilia, A. Micallef 2, S. Farrugia, M. Bonett 8, S. DeMartino 21, C. Curmi 4, J. Diaby 4, P. Arguello 10, N. Schembri, S. Davis, K. Mifsud.   

Referees: B. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosavljevic, K.Dworniczak.

Hibernians      83

Caffe Moak Luxol         45   

(29-19,17-7, 21-5,16-14)

After a balanced first half of the initial period, Hibs notched a 13-0 run which paved their way to an easy win over Luxol.

Their victory became clear in the third quarter where Hibs extended their double-digit lead significantly as the Violets did not improve on their shooting percentage.

Both sides had major changes in their ranks.

Hibs opted to have Ashleigh Van Vleet, presently unavailable for play, running the team from the sidelines with veteran Samantha Brincat leading the team, laden with young local players, on the court.

Luxol, on the other hand, presented a much younger and inexperienced side under the direction of Claudio Massari.

The Italian coach’s main task is to instil a new play mentality whilst awaiting the medical clearance of their US import player, guard Kali Koenig.

Kristy Caruana and Jasmine Abela, who combined for 34 points on the day, led the victors to their first run in a marathon first quarter which took over 30 minutes to conclude with the lack of match practice looking also evident.

With Luxol missing a lot of free throws and not finding their mark from long range, Hibs closed the first quarter with a double digit 29-19 advantage.

Both sides seem to be also lacking a true centre and this might prove costly as the season gains more momentum.

This margin continued to increase in the second and third rubbers as the Paolites marched to a 67-31 lead with ten minutes to go.

The last quarter was a balanced affair with Luxol continuing to rotate all the players, even the youngest of the lot, continually and Hibs also giving more space to the benchplayers.

Hibs: I. Agius 4, Y. Bonett 6, Z. Camilleri, S. Brincat 5, B. Agius 4, J. Abela 16, C. Camilleri 4, Cl. Camilleri 9, N. Farrugia 5, K. Calleja 9, K. Caruana 18, M. Buhagiar 3.

Luxol: A. Mifsud, H. Galea, A. Moranska, M. Pollacco 10, L. Caruana Montaldo 2, S. Vella 9, C. Sollami 7, A. Borg 7, J. Schembri 2, M. Camilleri 1, M. Grech 5, L. Fenech Pace 2.

Referees: I. Simic, L. Camilleri, V. Nikolic.

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