STARLITES FIJO 59
CAFFE MOAK LUXOL 69
(15-12, 16-16, 13-24, 15-17)
Starlites FIJO and Caffe Moak Luxol went in for the opening toss of this second game in the finals series with the Naxxar side enjoying a 1-0 lead after having marginally beaten their rivals, 60-58, in the first game less than 100 hours before.
This time around, Luxol brought the best-of-five series to a tie and thus will now extend it beyond the third game to be played this Thursday.
The second encounter had some interesting phases after a somewhat quiet start. Luxol enjoyed the early marginal leads, with coach Santino Coppa opting for two young starters, Sarah Fenech Pace (five rebounds, four of five shot attempts) and Sarah Sciberras, who incidentally notched the side’s first tris of hoops for an early 6-3 lead with Starlites’ Mikela Riolo (four assists, two steals) banging a three-ball in between at the other end.
Inspired by their leader Gladiana Avila (53% accuracy and 31 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and a game-high eight steals), the Violets minimally extended their advantage but Starlites hit back, near the end of the first quarter, with a 9-2 run which overturned the score in their favour with Amelia Simmons (58% shooting for 25 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals) continuing to prove dangerous in the opponents’ key and Riolo and Maria Bonett (three assists) adding a respective bucket for a 15-12 scoreline after ten minutes.
The Naxxar side was the better side for most of the second quarter and two 6-0 streaks helped them even to open a maximum double-digit 31-21 lead with two minutes to go till the interval.
Apart from Simmons, Starlites had hoops from Stephanie Demartino (six rebounds, four assists) and Christina Curmi (seven rebounds, four assists), who were both hit with early foul trouble, as well as guard Michela Zammit Cordina.
The last couple of minutes of the first half maybe were also the psychological turning point in the game as Luxol, trailing by 10 points at that juncture, managed to instill more self-confidence when they closed the half with seven consecutive points to suddenly reopen the game.
Avila was the inspiration and young Lisa Fenech Pace also added a free throw in this run as the two finalists changed ends at 31-28.
The score was tied midway through the third quarter, 36-36, and for three minutes there were a number of lead changes as the two sides responded to each other.
A 6-0 Starlites run momentarily put the Naxxar side 42-39 ahead but this was countered by an important Luxol 10-0 streak as the Violets hit back strongly with more hoops from Avila and Josephine Diaby (eight rebounds, four assists). The latter, together with Avila and Mandy Mercieca (game-high 11 rebounds, five assists, and four steals), played all 40 minutes in the game.
Simmons did break Starlites’ momentary drought but Lisa Fenech Pace (50% from 3-point range) banged in a long ranger for Luxol to put her side 52-44 ahead at the end of the third quarter.
Charles Bonnici’s Starlites did try their best to recover the lost ground and they did have treys from Riolo (three of six from long range) and Simmons, but Luxol showed better ideas and consistency in the last rubber and managed to enjoy 10-point leads six times along the last quarter.
Starlites: M. Zammit Cordina 6, M. Riolo 11, A. Saliba, M. Sciberras, M. Bonett 6, S. DeMartino 7, M. Fenech, A. Simmons 25, C. Cilia, K. Mifsud, S. Davies, C. Curmi 4.
Luxol: C. Sollami, M. Mercieca 6, L. Fenech Pace 7, H. Galea, G. Avila 31, K. Portelli, S. Fenech Pace 8, Diaby 15, S. Sciberras 2, S. Farrugia, M. Marmara, A. Fenech Pace.
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, I, Simic, F. Ciurariu.
CAFFE MOAK LUXOL 58
STARLITES FIJO 60
(19-14, 14-19, 12-14, 13-13)
Luxol: C. Sollami, M. Mercieca, L. Fenech Pace 6, H. Galea, G. Avila 25, K. Portelli, S. Fenech Pace 6, J. Diaby 17, S. Sciberras 2, S. Farrugia, M. Marmara, A. Fenech Pace 2.
Starlites: M. Zammit Cordina 2, M. Riolo 12, A. Saliba, M. Sciberras, M. Bonett 4, S. DeMartino 22, M. Fenech, A. Simmons 10, C. Cilia, K. Mifsud, S. Davies, C. Curmi 10.
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, N. Azzopardi, B. Mrkojevic.
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