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Hibernians look for second cup title in KO final against ARMS Depiro

ARMS Depiro's Kelly Koshuta (left) is guarded Hibernians' Ylenia Bonett. Photo: Wally Galea

Now that the dust has settled on the race to the playoffs in the MSV Life Women’s League, another final is in store on Thursday before the start of the postseason as Hibernians face ARMS Depiro in the Knock-Out final (tip-off: 13.30).

While Hibernians secured the first seed heading into the playoffs, going straight to the championship game of the league, Depiro were beaten to a spot in the semifinals of the playoffs by Caffee Moak Luxol late in the season and so, a win on Thursday will be of vital importance if the Mtarfa side are to win a title this season.

Speaking to the Times of Malta, Depiro coach Ruben Baldacchino stressed that the knock-out trophy is always one of the club’s targets. Asked about the season, Baldacchino admitted the team faced great difficulty due to Hannah Johnson’s injuries but he is proud of what they have achieved nonetheless.

“For Depiro, every competition is important, and winning the knockout is always one of the club targets,” Baldacchino said.

“We basically played with a Maltese squad only, due to recurrent injuries to Johnson, and that made it very hard to compete, yet we were close to making it to the playoffs.

“The atmosphere is great, our team has been working hard all year, and I’m really proud of them. I’m sure they’ll be playing their best game.”

On the other hand, Hibernians have had a productive season, tearing through the league despite a late charge by Starlites Naxxar which forced the battle for the top seed to be decided on the last day. This will also be the side’s second final, after beating Luxol in the Shield final in February.

“We are looking forward and hoping to win another cup tomorrow,” Hibernians coach Norbert Borg said on Wednesday.

“For Depiro, it’s their last game for the season and definitely they are going to do their utmost to win this cup. They are a very good and energetic team so we must be focused from the very first second of the game.

“Winning this cup will surely help boost our morale and be more motivated in achieving our final goal of winning the league.”

Four years out of the game

One player who may be a deciding factor in Thursday’s final is US import player Kelly Koshuta. Depiro’s newest signing in the March window has impressed so far, scoring double-digits in a number of games. Asked about her progress so far, Baldacchino believes she can be even better than she has been already.

“(Kelly) Koshuta is a talented player but she has been out of the game for four years,” he admitted.

“It’s never easy to sign a player in February as there’s not enough time for any player coming so late in the season to settle and show her best. They always need six to eight weeks to be able to show what they truly can do. But I’m sure that tomorrow she’ll step up and have a great performance.”

The former NCAA Division One player joined the team late February, making her debut soon after in March, and has since put up big numbers, but Hibs coach Borg believes good defence will contain the 6’2 forward.

“She’s (Koshuta) a good player who knows how to use her height and strength underneath the boards. However, two weeks ago we met Depiro and as a team, we managed to perform good defence and limit her points.”

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