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Starlites rally floors Luxol in men’s Division One

Starlites’ Matthew Attard (no.5) goes for the basket. Photo: Wally Galea

The first BOV league game day for 2023 contained a very interesting encounter between Starlites FIJO and Bupa Luxol, where a four-point Luxol lead was overturned with five points in the last five seconds of play by the Naxxar side.

Elsewhere, Mellieħa Libertas kept their winning streak alive while Hibernians registered their third league win with a strong start in the final quarter of their match against Depiro.

(28-25, 28-22, 12-31, 25-16)

Those present at the Ta’ Qali pavilion were almost certain that Luxol, who earlier were losing with double digits, had managed to notch a victory when they lead by four points with less than 10 seconds to play.

Yet they witnessed something that makes basketball so unpredictable. Starlites, coming from back-to-back defeats, managed to neutralise this late deficit with a trey, with five ticks only remaining on the clock, and then a steal at half court concluded with a layup with less than a second to go.

The game had set off with a series of treys at opposite ends as Starlites raced to a 20-10 lead after a tris of three-pointers from Matthew Attard and another long ranger from Matthew Scerri. On the other hand, Trevian Bell, who had a notable 47-point game, and Nikola Vasovic had three balls for Luxol.

However, Luxol recovered well enough as they outscored their opponents 12-0 shortly afterwards before another Bell trey as they closed off the first quarter enjoying a slender 28-25 advantage.

With Bell and Taylor Mattos combining for 24 points between them in the second quarter, Luxol managed to extend a bit further their lead by the half-time interval to a maximum single digit, 56-47.

The half-time pep talk seemed to invigorate Starlites as they were totally superior when play restarted for the third quarter where they outscored their St Andrews’ based opponents by almost 20 points.

Attard netted another tris of treys from his total of eight long-rangers on the day while there were other long-distance shots from Alec Felice Pace, Miguel Fabri as well as Darius George.

A quarter-ending 12-0 streak helped the Naxxar side to enjoy a double-digit 78-68 lead with ten minutes to go.

The encounter reopened early in the last rubber as Luxol potted nine consecutive points to make it a tight 83-82 game.
A brace of Bell treys, the first with 63 seconds to go after a time-out and the second with 23 seconds to go moved Luxol from -3 to plus 3.

Starlites called a timeout and moved the ball forward and after only four seconds George penetrated to end with a dunk. Trailing by a point, Starlites fouled immediately but Bell coolly banged in the resultant two shots from the charity line with the Naxxar side, once again trailing by three, calling another timeout.

When play restarted in Luxol’s backcourt, Starlites were unlucky when Felice Pace, despite netting a trey, had stepped on the sideline.

Luxol had possession and with 12 seconds to go, Bell was again tactically fouled, yet he only scored one of two free shots. However, Luxol were now still four points clear and very close to the win.

Things resulted differently however as George upped his team’s morale with a massive long-distance shot from over nine metres with five seconds to go.

Luxol called another timeout and moved the ball to the opposite side but were erratic in the throw-in as Felice Pace stole the ball and ran to the other side to pot the game-winning semi-cross-over lay up to the left-hand side with 0.6 seconds to go.

LUXOL: J. Cefai, N. Vasovic 14, M. Sciberras 2, T. Bell 47, N. Engelbert, J.P. Schembri 2, A. Trapani, L. Trapani, V. Englin, T. Mattos 22, M. Matijevic 2, S. Cappello 4
STARLITES: A. Felice Pace 14, M. Attard 28, M. Barbara, M. Fabri 8, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 7, R. Carabott, L. Farrugia 2, N. Sultana, D. George 27, J. Notch 8.
Referees: G. Barbara, I. Ciurariu, F. Ciurariu.

(12-28, 19-20, 21-25, 13-20)

Mellieħa Libertas continued their fine run and kept the top spot in the standings alongside Starlites after they managed to register the league double over Gżira Athleta after a game where the northerners managed to open a small early lead which they then managed to hold onto.

Inspired by their US import Connor Zinaich and early baskets from Nenad Bukva, Mellieħa opened an 8-0 lead.

Gżira Athleta suffered the setback of losing their main point-getter Roland Griffin with injury although they presented a new import player, Canadian Henry van Herk, as well as the returning Matthew Gouder whilst veteran Peter Shoults donned Gżira’s colours after moving from Hibs in the latest transfer window.

Van Herk and Nathan Xuereb had Gżira’s first points in the game as they tried to overturn the initial deficit yet Mellieħa managed to close off the first rubber leading 25-12.

Both sides neutralised each other in the second quarter with almost equal points scored at each respective end for a 43-31 score at the interval.

With Gouder joining van Herk and Xuereb in netting hoops, Athleta had their best moment in the first part of the third quarter. But a late run by Christian Narciso’s boys, including a trey from veteran Omar Said who returned to the game after his initial retirement two seasons ago, had Mellieha back in command at 73-52 early in the last quarter.

In the last part of the game, Mellieħa controlled Athleta’s valiant efforts to keep their winning streak.

GZIRA: H. Van Herk 22, N. Buhagiar 2, P. Shoults 2, L. Stefanovic, J. Ellul Dowling 1, N. Xuereb 19, R. Griffin, I. Xuereb, M. Gouder 19, R. Abela, B. Zammit.
MELLIEĦA: S. Zammit, M. Falzon 4, D. Bugeja 4, R. Bonnici, V. Jandric 17, I. Bonett 4, N. Bukva 11, N. Jovanovic 11, C. Zinaich 34, M. Formosa, O. Said 3
Referees: G. Barbara, J. Londono, I. Ciurariu

(25-24, 21-20, 18-20, 15-26)

A strong and positive start to the final quarter proved the pivotal moment in this game as Hibs managed to register a 16-3 streak which moved from a tied 64-64 game at the end of the third quarter to a double-digit lead which they then maintained till the final buzzer.

The game was balanced for the first three rubbers, with neither side enjoying a big lead even if each team had their respective momentary good moments.

With US duo Cameron Cornelius and Kameron Rooks quiet on the offensive end in the first quarter, Depiro had a handful of treys shared between Miguel Brincat, Nicholas Grech, and Andrew Aquilina as they just pipped their opponents, who had three long-rangers from Luke Farrugia, 25-24 after ten minutes.

Play was similar in the second quarter with Depiro enjoying most of the lead whilst Hibs kept at close bay with Justin Bogle doing most of the damage in the Depiro’s key.

Three-balls from Matthew Attard and Farrugia helped the Paolites to jump ahead midway in the third quarter. But Depiro were quick to react and managed to tie the score by the end of the same quarter.

Here Hibs had their influential 16-3 run with Paul Attard and Ivan Demcesen adding to Bogle’s hoops.

The Mtarfa side tried to counter but time was in Hibs’ favour as the latter managed to contain Depiro’s efforts to register their third league success and now both sides, who also started the league campaign at -3 points, are tied with eight points at the bottom rung of the standings.

DEPIRO: J. Micallef, A. Aquilina 7, N. Grech 8, S. Kenely, K. Rooks 27, M. Brincat 18, M. Mallia, C. Cornelius 13, M. Debattista 6, K. Caruana
HIBERNIANS: N. Cassar 2, P. Attard 7, L. Attard, L. Farrugia 14, L. Borg, A. Axiaq 11, R. Aquilina, M. Attard 14, J. Bogle 29, M. Bezzina, I. Demcesen 13
Referees: I. Ciurariu, F. Ciurariu, Z. Dobrosavljevic

Mellieħa Libertas/Starlites FIJO (6/2) 14; BUPA Luxol/Gżira Athleta (3/5) 11; Hibs (-3)/Depiro (-3) (3/5) 8.

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