This summer’s most active side in women’s basketball, Depiro, made their case for title challengers on Saturday when they brushed aside Hibernians in the women’s John Tabone Shield on their first showing of the season.
Caffe Moak Luxol avenged their fourth-quarter crumble against Starlites JSD in the Super Cup a week prior by thrashing Fusion Quest.
(18-19, 25-13, 21-4, 19-14)
Depiro’s first official game under new coach Adrian Baldacchino couldn’t have gone better. Speaking to the Times of Malta, Baldacchino said he found a squad ready for action from the outset.
“Initially I thought I would have to make a number of changes towards the women’s game but when I saw the team motivated and going out to play like lions, I could apply the same philosophy I used with the men,” he said.
“I have players who, despite being quite young, have experience. The addition of Jose (Johnson), who has experience in different leagues, has helped even the other players. The knowledge of Kristy (Galea), Sophie (Abela), and Julia Borg combined with players like Julia Xerri and Claire Ciantar, who were part of the national team, is moulding the team quite well.”
Asked about the game against Hibernians, Baldacchino had words of praise for his opponents but cited better defence as the difference-maker.
“Hibs always present a tough challenge so I definitely wasn’t expecting an easy game,” he said.
“Their foreigner is really good and I think the difference was that we stepped up our defence. But I must repeat: Especially when you have a coach like Sandro (Farrugia) on the other end it will always be a tough battle.”
Johnson hit the first shot of the encounter as Depiro started off quickly. Summer signing Galea drove up to put Depiro up by four before Iona Agius hit one of two from the line to open the Hibernians scoring.
All looked destined for Johnson on Depiro’s offence as the Mtarfa side affected side-to-side movement of the ball to find the American in the paint under the hoop.
Depiro’s Abela hit a three-pointer but Hibs’ Lindsey Whilby responded with one of her own as the gap was that of just a point midway through the first quarter.
The Paolites went ahead with a Whilby and-one play as the game began to show its promise with the first lead change, seconds before another Johnson make to tie things up again.
Threes from Agius and Marie Buhagiar put Hibs ahead again as Depiro’s Julia Borg hit a buzzer-beating three-ball to finish the quarter 19-18 for the Paolites.
A pair of missed threes at both ends of the court opened the second quarter but a Claire Ciantar free-throw brought the teams to par for yet another time before Johnson hit a mid-range jumper for the lead.
Borg hit another two long-rangers to cover for a Julia Dabic layup as Depiro now opened their biggest lead at six points after half of the quarter.
Whilby shot from deep to bring it back to three as the two sides kept up their energy with 3.41 to go in the first half.
Neve Borg hit one back before Kaya Calleja repaid the favour but it was Depiro in charge in the final seconds and they led by 11 before the change of ends.
Johnson opened proceedings after the break after a swift team play to find her under the rim. Galea added another two from the charity line as Depiro stretched it to a 15-point lead.
Buhagiar grabbed the first second-half bucket for Hibs with a shot-clock-beating layup but the way back began to look more difficult as the gap became 23 points after a Galea three-ball with four minutes to go in the third quarter.
Depiro were 31 points ahead with a minute and a half to go as Galea was good from three again in what became a particularly physical quarter.
Hibs had a mountain to climb in the final 10 minutes of the encounter but they kept fighting to try and reduce the gap.
In spite of this, Depiro’s momentum remained unchanged with Abela and Johnson the main drivers of the fourth quarter to keep up the 30+ lead.
To make matters worse, foul trouble sent Depiro’s players to the line in the final seconds as they now progress into the next round.
DEPIRO: S. Abela 9, N. Agius 3, J. Xerri 4, J. Mallia 2, N. Agius, C. Ciantar 5, J. Borg 15, J. Johnson 19, M. Micallef 2, N. Borg 8, K. Galea 14, L. Camilleri 2.
HIBERNIANS: M. Buhagiar 6, F. Fabok 2, I. Agius 4, L. Whilby 22, J. Abela, B. Agius, K. Calleja 6, N. Farrugia, K. Caruana 4, A. Mallia, J. Dabic 6.
Referees: F. Ciurariu, A. Bayraktar.
CAFFE MOAK LUXOL 98
FUSION QUEST 43
(31-10, 22-12, 28-9, 17-12)
Caffe Moak Luxol cruised past Fusion Quest 98-43 to surge into the next round.
It was a dominant performance from the Violets as they leveraged their mismatch in size to make it a one-sided encounter as quickly as possible.
Luxol started with an 11-0 run before Fusion hit their first points from the line midway through the first quarter.
In the next two minutes, Luxol hit another 11 as Fusion made their first layup.
Last season’s Shield runners-up broke little sweat in the following quarters, up by 31 at the half-time break with coach Santino Coppa playing a rotated roster to give rest to players like Tayler Bennett, Anna Fenech Pace, and Josephine Diaby who had been the focal points a week prior in the women’s Super Cup.
The Violets reached 80-point mark in the third quarter as Fusion struggled due to numerous interceptions and steals from the fired up Luxol defenders.
Up by 50 at the start of the fourth quarter, the following 10 minutes were a mere formality as Luxol made into the next round.
CAFFE MOAK LUXOL: T. Bennett 13, H. Galea 5, E. Abela, M. Camilleri 1, S. Fenech Pace 17, J. Diaby 16, J. Said 9, V. Baldacchino 12, S. Sciberras 6, S. Farrugia 7, M. Marmara 4, A. Fenech Pace 8.
FUSION QUEST: H. Grixti 2, M. Momcilovic 4, P. Millo 4, E. Pace 4, A. Ledesma 18, M. Agius, J. Schembri 11, P. Carona.
Referees: N. Azzopardi, G. Russo.
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