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Malta’s women make bright start as men struggle in opening game

Malta's women produced a fine display to beat Cyprus on Tuesday. Photo: Stephen Christopher Vella

Outstanding debut for 32-point Melgoza 

Malta had a mixed opening day at the Ta’ Qali Pavilion on Tuesday as the women’s team cruised past Cyprus 82-58, while the men fell to the same opponent 50-75 right after.

While these opening games have no bearing on the final placing, both sets of players would have wanted a day-one victory on home court and Angela Adamoli’s clan did just that with a commanding performance against a Cypriot side that was, on paper, one of the favourites in these Games. 

It was a well-sounded statement of intent as Malta’s women held control throughout the game with newly naturalised guard Amber Melgoza going all out on her Malta debut with a game-high 32 points scored – 63.2% made attempts.

Stephanie De Martino, with 30.2 minutes of play, spent the most time on court for Malta. She followed with 16 points and five rebounds. Ashleigh Van Vliet added 15 and seven rebounds, while Amelia Simmons, the other double-digit scorer, put up 14 points and grabbed six boards.

Cyprus’ Veatriki Akathiotou led her team with 14 points and five rebounds, as Petra Orlovic added 12 to round up the double-digit scoring together with five rebounds of her own.

Amber Melgoza drives to the hoop against Cyprus. Photo: Stephen Christopher Vella

Melgoza showed off her strength immediately with the first four points of the game and Cyprus could barely reply as Van Vliet, De Martino, Nicola Handreck, and Simmons all put up numbers to give Malta a 20+ point first-quarter finish.

The second quarter was no different as Simmons and De Martino traded three-balls to add to more Melgoza buckets. Cyprus however, responded with Pilakouta, Orlovic, and Akathiotu baskets to end the half with a 16-point margin.

Van Vliet took over after the break, bagging no less than seven points inside 10 minutes. But as Cyprus brought the margin to within nine points, Malta shot back up with two De Martino threes, with Van Vliet adding another as Josephine Diaby and Kristy Gale both added points of their own on the board for a classy victory.

Cypriot revenge

Minutes after the end of the women’s game, Malta’s men took over the court to face Cyprus again. However, this time, Cyprus got the better of Alan Walls’ clan with a dominant performance and free-flowing threes. 

Josh Tomasi led Malta’s scoring with 14 points, grabbing seven rebounds on his Malta debut. Sam Deguara added another 10 points and eight rebounds, the duo being the only double-digit scorers on the day. Kurt Cassar and Nelson both finished with 10 rebounds.

For Cyprus, Nikolaos Stylianou caused the most trouble with 18 points, six rebounds, and two assists. Konstantinos Simitzis followed with 17 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Michalis Koumis (12) and Stefanos Iliadis (11) rounded the double-digit scoring as the former was one rebound shy of a double-double.

The Malta men’s team. Photo: Stephen Christopher Vella

Malta looked too easy on defence on the night, allowing the Cypriots open threes which caused damage to Malta’s chances early on. This remained the primary difference maker throughout the encounter as Cyprus opened a 10+ lead and stuck to it, eventually getting to more than a 20-point game at one point. Constant rotation was the choice of the day for coach Walls who switched players around in different positions as he stayed true to his plan of experimenting with various systems ahead of the crucial games.

Simitzis was the main contributor to Cyprus’ points in the first quarter with 10 points in 10 minutes. With Cyprus leading by 12 after the first buzzer, a whirlwind of points from either side brought the game to a nine-point margin for the only time in the tie before Cypriot threes gave them their breathing space again as the gap grew back to 15 at the halftime break.

Malta attempted a fightback in the second half, but it was more misery for the side as Cyprus went as high as 24 points ahead despite makes from Kahler, Tevin Falzon, and Cassar.

The fourth quarter proved just a formality as Cyprus continued to pile on points to make amends for the first-day loss to Luxembourg.


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