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Depiro edge Hibernians as Starlites overcome Luxol

Depiro’s Miguel Brincat (right) tries to move past Peter Shoults. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Mellieħa outclass Gżira

Depiro 70
Hibernians 69
(19-18, 11-26, 17-10, 23-15)

This game had various facets with both sides enjoying positive moments and then had an interesting finale with Depiro managing to end victorious with a late Cameron Cornelius hoop.

The two sides were practically at full complement after last season’s suspensions with Depiro also now led by Ruben Baldacchino after that the American coach Brian Semonian was sacked earlier in the week.

It was the same Depiro who set off on a high note with respective treys from Cornelius and Miguel Brincat followed by a close-range Kameron Rooks hoop for 8-0.

However, Hibs quickly reacted with centre Ivan Demcesen making his height and weight under the boards matter.

Although Depiro still maintained the lead till late in the first quarter up to 19-14, the Paolites closed the first rubber with points off Justin Bogle and Demcesen for a tight, marginal gap between the two sides at 19-18.

Hibs’ best play was produced in the second quarter, ten minutes of effective play which they totally dominated to move to a convincing 44-20 half-time lead.

Bogle was leading the team intelligently and apart from more points from Demcesen, Silvio Cassar’s boys had a Matthew Attard trey and hoops from Anton Axiaq and Modou Fall.

The mid-game interval seemed to enlighten the Mtarfa clan as they managed to reopen the game in the third quarter,
especially after an 11-point streak almost immediately after the change of ends.

A Miguel Mallia three-ball and two baskets off Michael Debattista added to further Cornelius buckets. Hibs still held the upper hand, 54-47, with ten minutes to go after late third-quarter long rangers from Luke Farrugia and Peter Shoults.

A mid-fourth quarter 7-0 run, with Rooks and Andrew Aquilina netting the points, led to a lead change with Depiro now being 63-60 ahead.

It was tit-for-tat for the next minutes until a Hibs push led them to a late lead change, 69-68, after free throws from Axiaq with just five seconds to go till the final buzzer.

After a time out to bring the ball forward, Depiro laid their last offensive onslaught, and Cornelius scored a penetration off-the-board shot with Depiro initially celebrating their presumed win.

Yet, the clock had not stopped on time after the ball passed the net and 0.4 seconds had to be added, allowing time for Hibs to call a timeout.

The latter’s last desperate attempt, however, did not find the mark to the relief of the Depiro clan who were now sure of their win and now move to 0 points in the league table whilst Hibs are still at -1 after both sides commenced this league campaign with a three-point deduction after last season’s disciplinary actions.

Depiro: J. Flagel, S. Galea 2, J. Micallef, A. Aquilina 8, N. Grech, S. Kenely, K. Rooks 22, M. Brincat 5, M. Mallia 3, C. Cornelius 26, M. Debattista 4.
Hibernians: N. Cassar, P. Attard, L. Attard, L. Farrugia 6, G. Cassar, A. Axiaq 9, M. Fall 2, R. Aquilina, M. Attard 5, J. Bogle 27, M. Bezzina, I. Demcesen 17, P. Shoults 3.
Referees: B. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosavljevic, F. Ciurariu.

BUPA Luxol 71
Starlites Fijo 87
(22-25, 16-23, 18-17, 15-22)

This game offered quite some interesting play. In fact, for the good part of the first half, the tempo, intensity, game pace and on-court tussles were of a considerable quality, something that could only reap good dividends for the local game if such style of play is repeated consistently each week.

The first quarter was a totally balanced affair with the two sides replying continually to each other.

Luxol enjoyed the first leads, albeit small ones, with Trevian Bell and Nikola Vasovic grabbing the points.

A 7-0 streak, through hoops from Darius George and Ian Felice Pace, permitted Starlites to take the first lead in the game. But Luxol quickly replied at the opposite end with a 9-2 run to pip just marginally 22-20 ahead.

The first quarter still had more to offer as Starlites enjoyed the last points of the first ten minutes off a Louie Farrugia bucket and three Alec Felice Pace free throws.

After Ian Felice Pace and Stefan Capello exchanged treys at opposite ends, the reigning champions managed to open a 9-point lead, 39-30, after a brace of Jordan Notch hoops as well as a Kurt Xuereb mid-ranger.

Luxol did try to reply as Tayler Mattos netted a brace of hoops but Starlites showed more mettle at the closing stages of the first half closing off with a Matthew Scerri trey which helped the Naxxar side to a half time double-digit lead, 48-38.

Although this lead was initially extended with very early second half baskets from George and Notch, Luxol managed to halve their deficit in the next couple of minutes.

Starlites did have another good moment and re-opened, albeit momentarily, a double-digit buffer, 65-51, but Luxol were not to be outdone and very early fourth quarter treys from Vasovic and Bell had them come five points away, 62-67.

The Luxol momentum was halted when Starlites hit them with a 7-0 run with back-to-back triples from captain Alec Felice Pace and Scerri’s third long-ranger in the game.

Luxol’s last attempts were immediately replied at the opposite end and Starlites managed to hold on to their lead.

Luxol: J. Cefai, N. Vasovic 12, M. Sciberras, T. Bell 22, JP Schembri 5, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, J. Pace Debono, T. Mattos 19, M. Matijevic, S. Cappello 13.
Starlites: A. Felice Pace 12, M. Attard 2, I. Felice Pace 11, M. Fabri, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 12, R. Carabott, L. Farrugia 6, K. Xuereb 4, N. Sultana, D. George 17, J. Notch 23.
Referees: D. Torok, B. Vassallo, J. Londono.

Gżira Athleta 84
Mellieħa Libertas 104
(12-31, 21-30, 22-24, 29-19)

A 24-2 run obtained in the second part of the first quarter paved the way for a convincing Mellieha Libertas win over Gzira Athleta.

Buoyed by a 31-12 lead after just ten minutes of play, the Northerners kept up their tempo and extended their lead to a notable 61-33 score at the halfway mark.

The second half was merely a formality and even though Gżira Athleta managed to increase their point tally, Mellieħa never looked in danger of losing their grip on the game.

Four three-pointers characterised Mellieħa’s first quarter as Vukasin Jandric, David Bugeja, Robert Bonnici and Samuel Zammit each netted a respective trey to add to Connor Zinaich’s ten points in the first rubber.

Further three balls, including a brace from Nikola Jovanovic, and more Zinaich hoops were instrumental in Mellieħa’s first-half positive 61-point tally.

After falling 43-80 behind, Gżira Athleta began finding more their way to the opponents’ basket as their US imports, Jalen King and Roland Griffin, were now more consistent in their conclusions whilst Nathan Xuereb banged in a couple of treys.

Mellieħa managed to surpass the century mark late in the game through another Zinaich hoop whilst Jovanovic ended with five long-rangers in the game.

Gzira Athleta: J. King 21, F. Mifsud Bonnici, L. Stefanovic, J. Ellul Dowling, N. Xuereb 14, R. Griffin 38, I. Xuereb, S. Vincic 5, R. Abela, B. Zammit 6.
Mellieħa Libertas: S. Zammit 5, D. Bugeja 12, R. Bonnici 6, V. Jandric 14, I. Bonett 7, N. Bukva 4, N. Jovanovic 17, C. Zinaich 35, M. Formosa 4.
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Ciurariu, N. Azzopardi.

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