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Starlites reconfirmed as U-23 champions

Starlites U23 players celebrate with the Championship trophy. Photo: Steven Christopher Vella

Starlites Naxxar 91
Depiro Blue 70
(18-9, 27-17, 28-15, 18-29)

Starlites retained the U-23 men’s crown for the second year running, after a merited win in the final.

After a somewhat close first quarter, they opened an early second-quarter double-digit lead which they extended to 20 points late in the first half.

The second half was a foregone conclusion as Naxxar maintained the upper edge and never looked in any danger of losing their lead.

The game had a slow start with a Miguel Brincat trey giving Depiro their only marginal lead in the game. Yet Starlites moved 8-3 ahead midway in the first quarter through hoops from skipper Matthew Scerri, Miguel Fabri, and centre Louie Farrugia.

Two Starlites turnovers allowed Depiro’s Giorgi Lebanidze to nail two hoops for 7-8 yet Starlites were not put back with this momentary setback and a brace of hoops from Fabri and the returning Jack Zammit (five assists) helped their side to an 18-9 scoreline after ten minutes.

The victors took the upper hand as they quickly extended their lead with treys from Ian Felice Pace (double-double with 22 points at 57%, 11 rebounds, 5 assists), Fabri, and Luca Riolo.

Despite Depiro’s late first-half attempts from Brincat (six assists), Michael Debattista (13 rebounds), and Miguel Mallia, it was still Starlites who kept marching on as Felice Pace (five of nine from long range) nailed two consecutive threeballs.

After the change of ends, the game’s tempo did not alter with Starlites managing to open a large lead and go 67-36 ahead.

The league trophy’s destination was already established at this juncture as both sides then exchanged a series of hoops with a lot of open plays as Depiro’s guard Luke Attard hit five treys in the last minutes of the game (six of 11 attempts in the game).

After the game, Starlites’ captain Matthew Scerri received the league trophy from MBA president Paul Sultana.

Starlites: J. Zammit 6, M. Barbara 1, I. Felice Pace 22, M. Fabri 13, L. Riolo 7, M. Scerri 10, S. Aquilina, L. Farrugia 18, S. Pace 2, N. Sultana 6, B. Stankovic 6.
Depiro: S. Galea 5, B. Nel, J. Micallef, L. Attard 25, A. Attard 2, S. Kenely, M. Brincat 13, M. Mallia 9, A. Micallef, M. Debattista 10, G. Lebanidze 6.
Referees: I. Simic, N. Azzopardi, B. Mrkojevic.

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