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Final three minutes ‘a lesson’ as Starlites avoid late defeat to Depiro

Starlites’ Paige Cannon holds possession against Depiro. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Hibs crash to low-scoring loss against Luxol

Starlites JSD may be the only remaining unbeaten side as they head to the women’s Shield final this season but four points could have given them their first defeat over the weekend in a fiery clash against SiGMA Depiro at the Ta’ Qali Pavillion.

Meanwhile, Hibernians struggled in an awkward performance against Caffe Moak Luxol who ran riot in search of a spot in the final.

(17-29, 13-20, 11-15, 29-10)

While the scoreline shows a close game, it was a contest that could have changed leads only in the final quarter in what Starlites coach Fatih Dedelioglu admits too much rotation could have cost them the game.

“For anyone who did not watch the game and just saw the score, they can think that it was a close game however, the story was different,” Dedelioglu told the Times of Malta.

“I am really happy with what I saw from my team in 37 minutes on both defence and offence. We did completely what we worked on during the week. When you check the stats, until the last three minutes you will see that we made our minimum turnovers, and (Depiro) just found 22 points from our turnovers and their second chances in total.

“We dominated the game in the first 37 minutes. Regarding the last three minutes, after too much rotation, we lost our balance on the court and it was completely my fault, so I take responsibility for that. Their run and our foul problem caused the closing of the gap. However, I was completely sure that we would win and that was the result, but we spoke about it internally.”

The former Depiro coach believes it was a good lesson for them and shifted towards praising young players like Philippa Riolo and Catherine Vella who are usually more present in the Under-19 roster.

“The biggest point that needs to be highlighted is that we trusted our really young players who just such as Philippa Riolo and Catherine Vella. They played in an important senior game for a good minute and they did a good job. So, I am really proud of them,” he said.

With such a winning streak comes the question of how long a team can keep this going. Dedelioglu believes the challenge can be overcome only by consistency as the team is looking to have an unbeaten season.

“According to our club culture, we want to get everything that we are in. If we win our second cup, for sure it will be a good boost for the season. I know that there will be a long time for another trophy, but we will use this time to be better by working on details for our system,” he said.

“Players will improve, and our game will become more mature. We want to be a winning team, so a winning habit and consistency are really important including U23s. Even if we don’t perform as we want, we should still know how to win. However, my players already have this mentality and professionalism so I am sure every one of us will do the best. The challenge is to become an unbeaten team.”

Depiro’s Kristy Galea opened the game’s scoring with a three-pointer with Maria Bonett responding with a layup. From then on, Jose Ann Johnson hit six points with Julia Borg adding another eight. However, it was Starlites who powered ahead through Stephanie De Martino – who reached double-digit scoring within the first quarter. Mikela Riolo hit twice from deep as Michela Zammit Cordina added another as Starlites led by 12 points at the first buzzer.

Zammit Cordina and De Martino piled more woes onto Depiro at the start of the second quarter as the margin continued to grow, with Paige Cannon stretching her side’s lead up to 21 points.

After the halftime break, Starlites kept up their concentration to grab their highest lead of 26 points with 1.36 to go in the third quarter after Bonett, De Martino, Riolo, and Mariah Fenech scores. Meanwhile, Johnson and Sophie Abela held Depiro from suffering even more.

In fact, this became fuel for the Mtarfa side in the fourth quarter as Johnson put up 13 points as Depiro dominated the rubber and hacked at the deficit at a rapid pace. Starlites kept their lead at 20 points until the final four minutes but from then on, Depiro’s Nicole Agius hit two consecutive three-pointers to start a late comeback attempt and were close to sending the game to overtime with the gap down to just four points with six seconds to go.

SIGMA DEPIRO S. Abela 14, N. Agius 6, J. Xerri, C. Ciantar, J. Borg 10, J. Johnson 32, N. Borg, K. Galea 8.
STARLITES JSD M. Zammit Cordina 12, M. Riolo 15, M. Fenech 2, M. Bonett 4, S. De Martino 28, P. Cannon 9, P. Riolo, C. Vella 4, C. Cilia, S. Davies, C. Curmi.
Referees Z. Dobrosaviljevic, N. Azzopardi.

(1-23, 8-9, 7-22, 17-14)

Josephine Diaby was in inspired form on Saturday in a 17-point and 11-rebound double-double performance and was the player to score the first two points of the game.

Kirsty Caruana made one of two freethrows but that was to be the only point that Hibernians would score throughout the entire first quarter. From then on, Sarah Sciberras and Sarah Fenech Pace took over as Luxol opened a 22-point lead by the end of the first quarter.

Hibernians finally scored their first shot through Fanni Fabok in the second quarter, but Fenech Pace trio Sarah, Anna, and Lisa made it a 28-point game midway through the quarter. By then the Paolites could not catch a break with points coming only from the freethrow line bar a Caruana layup.

Nothing much changed apart from the ends after the halftime break as Diaby could not be stopped as she put up no less than 10 points in the third quarter. Tayler Bennett, Lisa Fenech Pace, and Vanya Baldacchino all continued to make it an incredible task for coach Sandro Farrugia’s clan.

Hibs’ Lindsey Whilby brought to a halt Luxol’s now 40-point lead with Elena Farrugia making it 34 points with a three-pointer. But the margin was too high as Luxol took the win four minutes later with the final quarter having been a mere formality.

HIBERNIANS M. Buhagiar, E. Farrugia 4, F. Fabok 7, I. Agius 7, L. Whilby 9, B. Agius, N. Farrugia, K. Caruana 5, A. Mallia, J. Dabic 0.
CAFFE MOAK LUXOL L. Fenech Pace 6, T. Bennett 5, H. Galea, M. Camilleri, S. Fenech Pace 10, J. Diaby 17, J. Said, V. Baldacchino 8, S. Sciberras 12, M. Marmara 6, A. Fenech Pace 4.
Referees B. Vassallo, J. Londono.

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