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Malta miss out on bronze in women’s basketball

Malta's Amber Melgoza (left) drives to the hoop against Cyprus. Photo: Stephen Christopher Vella



(16-21, 23-16, 19-26, 19-24)

Malta’s commitments in the women’s basketball competition at the Games of the Small States of Europe ended on Saturday with Malta taking fourth place after a 10-point defeat to Cyprus.

Malta had been looking to avenge their 1-2 run in the competition and it looked like it was about to happen during the game’s progression as Amber Mendoza had another 30+ points game and the second double-double in as many days. She finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and three assists. Stephanie De Martino, Amelia Simmons, and Ashleigh Van Vliet all scored nine with the latter grabbing eight boards.

It was Cyprus’ Veatriki Akathiotou who opened the game’s scoring with a three-pointer. Jessica Azzopardi replied by cutting into the late for a layup and threes from Simmons and Melgoza gave Malta their first lead of the day with 3.4 minutes to go in the opening quarter.

The second quarter was just as intense but Cyprus began to find their shot and opened a 10-point gap midway through the rubber.

Josephine Diaby brought the gap to within six with a long-range effort before Melgoza downed another three-ball to make it just three points. A tussle under the rim from Diaby levelled the game with a minute to go but Cassidy Mihalko gave Cyprus the lead again. Nonetheless, a Van Vliet three-ball sent the game to halftime with Malta in charge 39-37.

There was an identical start to the half as Akathiotou hit a shot from the corner to bring Cyprus level again. Another make gave them the lead but Melgoza was poised as she made her 16th and eventually 18th point in quick succession.

Cyprus replied with a four-point play but Melgoza drove to the hoop to level the score yet again.

Akathiotou fired another three and Stilyana Chenaklieva added another in between a shot from the line as Cyprus led by seven in an instant. Simmons and Melgoza replied to bring it back to three, the latter making it two with an and-one play in the final two minutes of the quarter.

Cyprus opened a seven-point lead at the start of the fourth and Mihalko made matters worse for Malta with a pair of threes to give Cyprus their first double-digit lead as they lead by 13 points.

As time trickled by, Malta began to struggle and only a De Martino three could stop Cyprus’ run which had put them up eight. De Martino put up another shot from distance after a pair of Cyprus freeshots as the gap was now single digits in the final minute of the game.

The last 30 seconds of the game became a fight o the death but the only baskets came from Cyprus as they sealed the deal to get revenge after game one and take bronze.

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