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Malta 3×3 women make historic semifinal exit at Europe Cup qualifiers

From Left to right: Stephanie De Martino, Josephine Diaby, Ashleigh Van Vliet. Photo: FIBA

Men fail to qualify from group stage

Malta’s 3×3 community will have a new milestone to celebrate after the Malta women’s 3×3 team made it past the group stages of the FIBA 3×3 Europe Cup qualifiers in Limassol, Cyprus. The Malta trio fell to Azerbaijan in the semifinals but will relish a vital win against Cyprus, a team that has haunted Malta over the past years.

After two close defeats on Saturday against Azerbaijan and Ireland, the former going to overtime and only giving the Azeris the win with a freethrow and a last-chance bucket. But with Malta being placed in a three-teamed Pool A together with Azerbaijan and Ireland, all three teams progressed with the group standing determining each team’s opponent.

Second-ranked Pool B side Cyprus were one of the tournament favourites for these qualifiers after having succeeded in winning last year. However, Malta managed to overcome the Cypriots with a 10-8 scoreline, a feat which takes on greater significance considering the fact that Malta was the only team with only three players taking part, the rest having one bench player to rotate.

Stephanie De Martino and Ashleigh van Vliet both scored five points, all baskets coming from inside the paint. The only two-pointer of the game came from Cyprus’ Marissa Pangalos who scored three, as did Eleni Pilakouta. Petra Orlovic added two points to round the scorers.

Following Malta’s celebrations, a semifinal clash against the Azeris was on the cards, the sides facing each other for the second time this weekend.

Malta scored another 10 points this time but were edged by Azerbaijan with another close finish, the Azeris winning 11-10 and advancing to the final against Luxembourg who trumped Ireland 14-9. Eventually, Luxembourg took the honours with a 9-6 victory.

From left to right: Kurt Xuereb, Ian Felice Pace, David Bugeja, Nathan Xuereb.

Meanwhile, in the men’s tournament, Malta suffered a disappointing group-stage exit after another defeat to Cyprus.

Cyprus were the more dominant side throughout the encounter, but the scrappy Malta quartet fought to keep the score close for most of the game. Strangely enough, it was the final 20 seconds that doomed Malta as Cyprus put up five straight points with Malta unable to respond for a final score of 17-11.

David Bugeja led the Malta scoring with four points, followed by Kurt Xuereb who put up three, and two points each from Nathan Xuereb and Ian Felice Pace. Stefano Iliadis and Georgios Tretiakov both put up five points, Simon Michail adding four and Marios Georgio rounding off the scorers with three.

Cyprus proceeded to beat Andorra in the semifinals and eventually Ireland in an overtime victory to secure their place in the finals in Israel in September.

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