Women in bronze medal game against Cyprus
Malta will be heading into the gold medal Game of the men’s basketball event at the Games of the Small States of Europe on Saturday after they beat Montenegro 84-80 On Friday night. It was an incredible bounce-back after Thursday’s defeat to Luxembourg, a side they will now face in the final.
Malta just missed out on the chance to fight for a gold medal in the women’s game earlier on after losing to Luxembourg for a second time in two days at the Ta’ Qali Pavilion. However, they face Cyprus on Saturday with a chance for a bronze nonetheless.
(21-24, 25-20, 16-16, 18-24)
Joshua Tomasi got Malta going with the first bucket of the game. Tevin Falzon hit a three-pointer and got second-chance points to put Malta in the lead after a quick run by Montenegro saw them go up to six points.
The rest of the first quarter was tit for tat as Falzon was the focal point of Malta’s offence with an astounding opening-quarter 19 points and a solid presence under the hoop to grab the boards.
Montenegro brought the game to parity with a three-ball immediately as the second quarter opened but Tomasi regained Malta’s league with a pair of freethrows.
Montenegro grew in stature as they took the lead again. Coach Alan Walls brought on Samuel Deguara who put up nine points immediately as the size mismatch kicked in and Malta was within two at the break.
Malta were back in the lead halfway through the third quarter as Nelson Kahler found his first two buckets of the game, Tevin Falzon scoring point number 23 from the top of the key before finding another three-ball with 3.26 to go in the quarter.
Montenegro found themselves ahead before the buzzer with a three-pointer to set up a do-or-die fourth quarter.
Eric Washington fired in a perfect corner three as the final 10 minutes began but Montenegro hit back with threes of their own to push the margin to six points with 6.46 remaining.
Tevin Falzon brought it down to two points with his 31st point of the game and put Malta in the lead with yet another straight after.
Montenegro responded with a long-ranger of their own but Washington fired back as Malta led by one in the final two minutes of the quarter.
Aaron Falzon fouled out for the second time this week as Montenegro tied from the freethrow line with 1.07 to go but Washington replied with two points of his own to keep the crowd on its feet.
Tension grew at the pavilion very late on as arguments erupted giving Malta no less than five free shots after technical foul calls. Washington made two from the line before further arguments began again. Officials then had no choice but to stop the game with 10.6 seconds remaining with the Malta crowd in celebration mode and the team in the final.
(23-22, 17-15, 14-21, 21-11)
It was a fast-paced encounter as Malta aimed for revenge after a tough finish in the opening stages.
Just like the previous games, Amber Melgoza finished as Malta’s top scorer with 23 points, adding 10 rebounds for a double-double, as well as four assists. Stephanie De Martino scored 18, grabbing four boards and making four assists. Amelia Simmons rounded off the double-digit scoring with 12 points.
Both sides pushed on offence from the tip-off with Luxembourg’s Ehis Etute maintaining her momentum from the previous game to hit the ten-point mark within the first quarter as Melgoza fired in eight with Luxembourg leading by just one point by the end of the quarter.
The lead changed a minute into the second rubber with a De Martino mid-range effort but Luxembourg pushed with a set of threes to retake control. Midway through the quarter, an Ashleigh Van Vliet steal was vital as Luxembourg were forced to call time out after the Malta player brought the sides back level after a fast break score.
However, lapses of concentration in the Malta camp led to Luxembourg opening a seven-point margin with a minute to go in the first half.
After the break, Malta came out strong, scoring on their first possession and holding Luxembourg with tough defence. De Martino won her battle under the rim to give Malta the lead with 7.40 to go in the third quarter.
Another pair of De Martino threes sent fans into ecstasy as Malta now led by four, their largest lead so far, midway through the quarter.
Melgoza made it eight with a layup and two free throws as Luxembourg began to struggle on offence, faltering under the newfound energy of the Malta players. Foul trouble proved the intensity of the encounter as both sides were in the bonus with two minutes to go in the rubber.
Etute made it a three-point game again before Simmons completed an and-one play to close the third quarter at 58-54.
Luxembourg retook a six-point lead at the start of the final 10 minutes, assuring a tense finale to the game with a pair of threes.
The deficit for Malta grew to nine after four minutes as the side were now in danger of losing rhythm. De Martino stopped the Luxembourg run to bring it back to seven. Final efforts for Malta brought it as low as four but late free throws saw Luxembourg progress to the gold medal game.
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