Caffe Moak Luxol pushed past SiGMA Depiro on the opening day of the MAPFRE MSV Life Women’s League with a crucial defensive performance to keep up their momentum from the John Tabone Shield final victory over Starlites JSD.
Meanwhile, a Steffi De Martino-less Starlites took the points in their league opener against a resilient Fusion Quest side in the later game.
CAFFE MOAK LUXOL 54
SIGMA DEPIRO 46
(9-9, 20-12, 17-13, 8-12)
Luxol started Saturday’s game as Shield winners and this drive pushed them to their first victory of the new league campaign albeit facing a tough Depiro side.
One constant focus for Luxol remains the youth element and in-form forward Sarah Fenech Pace believes the win was a result of their mentality.
“I think that we put up a solid performance against a strong Depiro team, considering that we’re such a young team,” Fenech Pace told the Times of Malta.
“We went down to the game with the same mentality as usual – to try our best to win. It wasn’t an easy game; in fact, it was quite physical.
“We still have space to improve, and we recognise that it is still early days but I feel like this was a great start to the league, especially following the success of the John Tabone Shield.
“All in all the team has a great spirit and we are working hard under the guidance of our dedicated coach and assistant coach and we are looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Fenech Pace, who despite her young age has been at the forefront of the Luxol starting five, was a vital part of Malta’s gold-winning Under-18 FIBA European Championship Division C side, weeks after playing with the U-16s as well.
Asked about what drives her towards the form she is in, the 16-year-old said it was her love for the sport.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have had great coaches both at club and national team level, as well as experienced teammates that I got the opportunity to train with and learn from,” she explained.
“What motivates me is the love I have for this sport and the determination to be the best player I can be for the sake of my team. What I’ve learnt from playing in the senior league is that being young is not an excuse. You have a responsibility and need to work harder every day to honour this.”
On Saturday, Luxol dug deep for another win against what appears to be a Depiro team that is out to challenge for a top spot and facing teams like this in the span of the season, Fenech Pace said taking the league on a game-by-game basis is the way to go.
“We plan on continuing to train hard and give our 100% at every session and every game, in order to improve individually as well as team-wise. Our aim is to approach the league taking one game at a time in the hopes of reaching our goals,” she said.
It was a particularly low-scoring opening to the game on Saturday characterised by a slow start for both sides. In fact, it took three minutes for the game to see its first basket, a layup by Depiro’s Claire Ciantar.
Close to a minute later, Ciantar hit the game’s second pair of points as Luxol looked way off on offence. However, with 5.29 to go in the opening quarter, Luxol finally scored through a Tayler Bennett mid-range effort.
Points came at a premium, but Luxol levelled proceedings with 38 seconds left in the first quarter for a meagre 9-9 ending.
The warmup looked over a minute and a half into the second quarter as Bennett hit one of two freethrows to score the first second-quarter basket before Fenech Pace hit from close range to open her side’s first gap in the lead.
At the other end, Jose Ann Johnson was the target for Depiro’s offensive passing into the paint as they looked for open players on the sides. However, the outside players struggled to hit accurately amid a productive Luxol defence who took charge and Lisa Fenech Pace’s layup with 5.18 to go put them ahead by seven.
Julia Borg broke this run with a mid-range score, but Sarah Fenech Pace and Bennett put the Violets past the 20-point mark and 10 points ahead of the Mtarfa side.
Kristy Galea, Borg, and Johnson kept their side in the contest as Luxol were now in full control ahead of halftime.
After the break, Borg hit five straight points as Depiro were within three in the first minute of the third quarter. Bennett broke this momentum with a three-pointer, but Borg replied with another three of her own.
Luxol’s defence was crucial to them keeping their lead intact as Depiro began to fire on all cylinders, looking for open lanes. Meanwhile, Depiro’s defence left numerous gaps and it was Luxol’s inaccurate shooting that kept the margin close. In spite of this, the Violets re-opened their double-digit lead in the final two minutes of the quarter.
A Nicole Agius freethrow opened the final quarter scoring and it took Luxol 1.40mins to respond with a Bennett shot.
Borg hit yet another three halfway through the quarter and it became a late parry from one side to the other until the final buzzer saw Luxol end the game eight points ahead.
CAFFE MOAK LUXOL L. Fenech Pace 12, T. Bennett 20, S. Fenech Pace 12, J. Diaby 7, S. Sciberras, S. Farrugia 3, A. Fenech Pace.
SIGMA DEPIRO S. Abela 7, N. Agius 1, J. Xerri, L. Sciberras, C. Ciantar 8, J. Borg 17, J. Johnson 9, K. Galea 4.
Referees J. Londono, N. Azzopardi.
First half rush wins game for Starlites
STARLITES JSD 77
FUSION QUEST 62
(23-13, 26-12, 14-19, 14-18)
It was a case of two halves in Starlites’ victory over Fusion Quest on Saturday. While it was the titleholders who were completely in control of the first half, Fusion made significant improvements in the final two quarters in spite of defeat.
Fusion hit the first basket of the game with a three-pointer before Starlites put up a layup to open their account. A minute and a half later, the sides were level at 5-5 in what seemed to be the start of a fast-paced game.
A swift Michela Zammit Cordina euro-step finish put Starlites ahead for the first lead change. Eventually, Maria Bonett put the Maxxar side into double digits. Milica Stefanovic hit from deep to keep the deficit to three but Bonett scored again to keep up their buffer.
With 1.45 to go in the quarter, Starlites were 11 points ahead as they began to look the more dominant side.
Mikela Riolo opened the second quarter scoring with a three-ball before Mariah Fenech drove up to make it a 16-point lead for Starlites. Julia Schembri hit first for Fusion with a three-pointer and Agustina Ledesma added seven points to keep her side in the game. However, a late push from Starlites saw them up by 20+ by the halftime break.
The change of ends saw Fusion in much better form, led by Ledesma’s runs. However, defence was a problem for them as Starlites still managed to find a way in and maintain their high lead. As Fusion played catch-up. Outscoring their opponents, Fusion brought the deficit to 19 ahead of the final rubber.
The final set of minutes were a similar story and were it not for the height mismatch when dealing with Paige Cannon and shaky perimeter defence, Fusion could have had a chance of causing a late shock through offensive efforts from Nicole Vella and Ledesma. However, Starlites kept putting up their numbers to take the win.
STARLITES JSD M. Zammit Cordina 8, M. Riolo 10, A. Saliba, M. Fenech 4, M. Bonett 10, Y. Ferrando, P. Cannon 19, P. Riolo 7, C. Vella 2, C. Cilia 4, S. Davies 9, C. Curmi 4.
FUSION QUEST H. Grixti, M. Stefanovic 8, P. Millo 1, J. Schembri 15, A. Ledesma 23, N. Vella 10, N. Pejcic 5.
Referees I. Simic, G. Russo.
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