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Luxol seal top spot as Hibernians secure fourth win

Hibs player Jasmine Abela (left) tries to move past Casey Samuels. Photo: Wally Galea

With one game day from the regular season to go in the MAPFRE MSV Life Women League, the outcome of the post-regular season phase is already decided.

League leaders Caffe Moak Luxol ended their regular season commitments with their 11th victory and now will await the outcome of the semi-final series, on a best-of-three format, between second-placed Starlites FIJO and ARMS Depiro.

The Naxxar side were not in action this weekend whilst Depiro had a setback, even if it did not do them any harm as regards the standings when they lost to a resolute Hibernians side who notched their fourth league win.

The Mtarfa side will be however preparing themselves for this coming weekend’s Louis Borg Cup finals when they face Luxol first on Friday, tip-off at 8.15pm, and then again on Sunday at 1.45pm.

In the weekend’s first game, Luxol’s playcaller Santino Coppa, aptly and fittingly decided to give ample playing time to his second string, mostly very young players, against a battling Fusion Quest side who took the opportunity to enjoy some good moments in the contest.

Luxol set off with most of the regulars in the starting five and quickly opened a 20-2 lead after seven minutes with Gladiana Avila having seven points, five rebounds, and four assists in just seven minutes of play whilst Josephine Diaby added three hoops with five minutes to go.

Kayleigh Portelli, Sarah Fenech Pace, and Cristina Sollami then added buckets as the Violets led the first quarter 24-10.

Matters reversed in the second quarter as Fusion started gnawing away at the deficit, with Adriana Caballero shooting at 43%, and managed to momentarily take the lead, very late in the first half, 32-31 after back-to-back baskets from Fanni Fabok (10 points and 10 rebounds) and Julia Schembri (13 pts, one steal).

A Sarah Sciberras jumper helped the young Luxol squad to enjoy a one-point lead at the interval.

When play restarted, the Luxol youngsters remained on the court and managed to re-open a double-digit lead, 46-36, with further buckets from Fenech Pace and Sciberras as well as hoops from Michela Marmara and a trey from Jada Said.

Although Fusion tried their best and had positive plays from Milica Stefanovic (11 pts, three assists, four steals) and Fabok, Luxol did not allow their lead to flounder also with further treys from Said and Marmara.

A 13-0 early fourth-quarter streak paved the way for Hibs’ victory over Depiro.

Following this three-minute run, courtesy of hoops from Kenyotta Jenkins (14 points, 10 rebounds), Ashleigh van Vliet (10 pts, 10 rebounds, six assists, seven steals), and Samantha Brincat (10 points, four steals), the Paolites found themselves 62-44 ahead with only five minutes to go.

Despite Depiro breaking their basket drought through their best scorer Casey Samuels (26 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, four steals), Hibs held the upper edge to seal the victory.

The game was very balanced in the first half with a marginal lead continually alternating between the two sides.

Treys from Hibs’ Brincat and Jasmine Abela (three from nine three balls for 17 points and six assists) neutralised Depiro’s first efforts from Samuels, Julia Xerri, and Julia Borg (11 rebounds).

The Mtarfa side did go 34-30 ahead in the second quarter after treys from Samuels and Nicole Agius but Hibs quickly replied with six consecutive points to be leading with a normal basket margin, 35-34 at half-time.

The third rubber was a low-scoring affair yet in it, Hibs registered an 11-0 run to move 49-41 in the lead and then took total command of the game when they started the last quarter with the game-high streak of 13 points to grab the victory.

This win will boost their morale as they look for their only chance of silverware this season when they meet Luxol in the KO final in mid-April.

Fusion Quest 48
Caffe Moak Luxol 58

(10-24, 22-9, 4-13, 12-12)

Fusion: T. Azzopardi Deguara, D. Debono, M. Momcilevic 2, J. Schembri 13, M. Stefanovic
11, E. Pace, E. Amorin, A. Caballero 12, F. Fabok 10, N. Pejcic.
Luxol: C. Sollami 2, H. Galea 2, G. Avila 7, K. Portelli 4, M. Camilleri 3, S. Fenech Pace 4, J. Diaby 6, J. Said 10, S. Sciberras 9, M. Marmara 11.
Referees: N.Azzopardi, D. Farrugia.

ARMS Depiro 55
Hibernians 68
(18-18, 16-18, 8-13, 13-19)

Depiro: N. Agius 7, J. Xerri 6, L. Duncan , No. Agius , N. Hili 1, C. Samuels 26, J. Borg 8,M. Micallef, N. Borg 1, L. Camilleri 2, J. Magri 3, E. Cassar 1
Hibs: K. Conti , I. Agius 6, A. Van Vliet 10, S. Brincat 10, B. Agius , J. Abela 17,K. Jenkins 14, K. Caruana 9, J. Gauci , E. Cassar , J. Dabic 2, M.Mendez
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, F. Ciurariu.

League Standings
Caffe Moak Luxol (11/1) 23; Starlites FIJO(8/3) 19; ARMS Depiro (5/6) 16; Hibernians (4/7) 15; Fusion Quest (0/11) 11.

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