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Falzon expecting ‘another battle’ as Malta basketball fights for Gold

Teving Falzon hits a three-pointer against Montenegro. Photo: Stephen Christopher Vella

Malta reached a new milestone on Friday with the men’s basketball team when they assured themselves of a top-two spot ahead of the final of the Games of the Small States of Europe basketball event on Saturday afternoon. (Tip-off:4.45pm)

This will be the first time since 1987 that Malta goes for at least a silver medal. However, apart from the high stakes, Malta now faces a 77th-ranked Luxembourg team that has already beaten Malta once earlier on this week. 

Malta forward Tevin Falzon put on a show in the semifinal game against Montenegro that decided the team’s fate on Friday, scoring 34 points, a national team career-high since his debut with the side. Together with nine rebounds and two assists during his 35 minutes on court, Falzon was a standout performer on the night as coach Alan Walls may have found his best weapon for the most important game of all.

Speaking to the Times of Malta after the win, Falzon said it was his confidence to shoot that made the difference.

“I just did what I thought was needed,” Falzon claimed. 

“I noticed last time we played Montenegro there was an opportunity for me to be aggressive and score the ball. 

“I have a great point guard in Eric (Washington) and other great teammates that find me open. I’m not afraid to shoot when I’m open no matter how many I miss so this time, I got hot early and I was also able to get inside.”

Malta opened their GSSE commitments with a loss to Cyprus, the first win of two against Montenegro, and finally a loss to Luxembourg which pit the side against Montenegro again in the semis. Asked about the expectation on Saturday, Falzon believes it will be yet another battle for him and the team.

“I’m expecting another battle,” he said. 

“Yesterday was a battle with them (Luxembourg), today was obviously an incredible battle. Tomorrow we’re facing a really good team – they play well together and they’re very poised. 

“Yesterday, we came out hot early against them and they were able to calm down and step up and get right back into the game and they were poised enough to make some big shots and some big stops late in the game so we just have to sharpen a couple of things up and just come ready for battle.”

Malta’s players celebrate after reaching the final on Friday. Photo: Stephen Christopher Vella

This final fixture against Luxembourg will be a test of chemistry for the team, especially with various players not having played with each other prior to the tournament, while others just coming off their club season days before. This was evident in the earlier games when the team looked far from steady but Falzon believes things have naturally gotten better along the way.

“We’re just getting better. We haven’t had that much time to gel together, guys coming here after finishing seasons, getting here as they possibly can, Sam (Deguara) coming from Asia four days before the tournament started,” Falzon admitted.

“Those first games were really our first time really playing together as a team. But we’ve gotten better each game, from the first one where we got embarrassed, to the next one where we bounced back, to the last against Luxembourg in which we were right there. Obviously, today we knew it was do-or-die so we stepped up. Now we have to do this again tomorrow to give these fans a gold.”

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