Mellieha Libertas are a relatively young club within the Maltese basketball fraternity but they have been one of the sides to look out for this season. In Friday’s first leg of the Louis Borg semifinals, however, coach Adrian Mifsud will be wary of the challenge presented by league leaders Starlites Naxxar. (tip-off: 18.00)
“Starlites are clearly the favourites in this encounter, Mifsud told the Times of Malta, “they have the experience for such encounters and as a team, they have been together for a few years.
“Unlike them, we are a team that has most players that are playing together for the first time.”
This will also be the side’s first taste of the Cup this season, with Starlites having gone through the preliminary round after an aggregate win of 174-141 against Gzira Athleta a few weeks ago. However, speaking about the season, Mifsud lauded his side’s progress as they fight for the last playoff spot this season.
“We have exceeded our expectations as Mellieha are in the third season in the first division,” Mifsud said.
“The previous two seasons were stopped abruptly due to COVID-19 and Mellieha only managed a couple of wins. This year, we have managed a tally of six league wins and are still with a chance for the playoffs. Hopefully, we will manage to secure our place.”
Asked about the playoffs, The Mellieha coach believes it will be all about the experience if that playoff spot is achieved.
“Once in (the playoffs), we will play to enjoy the experience and obviously, we will do our best to get to the finals,” Mifsud said.
‘Luxol have become one of the best’
In the other Louis Borg Cup semifinal, Hibernians will be looking to take out a BUPA Luxol side which has been on the rise. (tip-off: 20.15) Once again, this will be the first commitment in the Cup for Hibs as Luxol pushed through with a 163-155 aggregate win over Depiro BC in the preliminary round.
“I’m expecting the two games to be very difficult, both for us and them (Luxol) because their level of play, since bringing in their second foreigner, has greatly improved and in my opinion, they’ve become one of the best teams,” Hibernians coach Mario Tabone said.
Hibs have been a tough side to beat this season, especially in the more important fixtures. Tabone believes that the mantra of performing when it matters will be vital, especially with the side having a full squad available for the weekend’s commitments.
“(Performing when it matters) is something that I always bank on,” he explained, “when it comes to the important games, we have players with experience who strengthen their approach and because of this, we are a different team in these games than in others like our last game against Depiro.
“I also don’t believe we have any impactful injuries – only minor ones which we are dealing with through physio. We should be good for Friday and Sunday.”
Asked about how important this ideal has been for his side overall this season, as Hibs stand second in the league with the playoffs right around the corner, Tabone believes it has to be this way and that his players are always ready for it.
“Playing against anyone this season, you know the game is going to be difficult because nowadays, every team is capable of beating the other,” he said.
“It’s important to have this mentality as what happens sometimes is that there are certain players who perform when a game has no significance, but are not the same player when push comes to shove.
“I think we’ve got players who, through their experience, perform better in these games than in others which provide a bit less motivation.”
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