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League ‘an opportunity to build ourselves’ says De Martino after second-straight win

Starlites women's coach Fatih Dedelioglu speaks to his team during a timeout. Photo: Stephen Christopher Vella

Starlites, Luxol extend winning run in women’s league

Starlites JSD cruised to their second-straight victory in the MAPFRE MSV LIFE Women’s league after putting on an organised showing against Hibernians, who have not had the best of openings to their season, and their league opener on Saturday continued to add to this as they suffered a 30-point defeat.

Later, Caffe Moak Luxol did just the same as their title rivals with a dominant victory against Fusion Quest despite another Augustina Ledesma team-leading performance.

HIBERNIANS 48

STARLITES JSD 78

(11-15, 15-21, 16-16, 6-26)

Speaking to the Times of Malta, Starlites captain Steffi De Martino said that despite the win, it was not their best performance and attributed the margin to Hibs’ Lyndsey Whilby having played seconds short of 10 minutes on the day.

“Saturday’s game was not our best performance. In the end, we won by a comfortable margin but we also need to keep in mind Hibs played without a foreigner,” she said.

“However, the way the games have been structured with finals and semi-finals for the first few games we had to do whatever to win. Now with league games, we take the opportunity to build ourselves and try new things until we find the right structure for us as a team, and until we find that we will experience some shaky games.”

On an individual level, however, De Martino is the league’s top point-getter so far. Averaging 25.5 points per game so far this season, the Malta international finished Saturday’s game with 30 points and 18 rebounds. When asked about what keeps her so consistent, she emphasised the importance of going over and above the regular team sessions.

“Just training – There is no secret recipe,” she explained.

“You train consistently and try to be as disciplined as possible and that’s what gives you results. I say this quite often in many interviews I’ve given, training with the club will only get you so far. If you want to elevate your performance you need to train alone and do it consistently.”

Maria Bonett got the game’s first point with a freethrow but Hibs’ Sharon Vella drove in to give her side the lead.

Starlites were the more offensive side in the opening stages but struggled to find the target before Paige Cannon hit a three-pointer and Michela Zammit Cordina scored a layup to open a four-point lead for coach Fatih Dedelioglu’s clan before the first timeout.

The Naxxar side overcame the 10-point mark with a Mikela Riolo three-ball as they began to take control over proceedings, restricting Hibs to 11 points by the end of the first quarter, six of which came in the final minute and a half.

Starlites opened the second-quarter scoring with another freethrow, this time from Cannon. It was a case of visible size mismatch between the two sides as the title-holders were distributing the ball from one side to the other over the Hibs players’ reach but Hibs grabbed their first baskets of the quarter when Iona Agius intercepted a long pass and shot from right inside the three-point line before Kirsty Caruana hit from three to make it a two-point game.

After a slow start from Hibs’ import player Lindsey Whilby, she got off the mark with 3.35 to go with a pair of shots from the line. However, Bonett, who together with Cannon had been the focal point of the side’s offence so far, put Starlites up by 10.

Seconds away from the break, De Martino made it 36-26 for Starlites but as the teams returned, her two assists to Bonett and Cannon sent the team past the 40-point mark.

Hibs’ Agius hit back with a layup and one of two freethrows to stop the run before Whilby scored an and-one and Caruana hit from deep to make a single-digit margin. The Paolites were slowly getting into the game but it was Starlites who led by 10 at halftime.

The fourth quarter was back to square one as Hibs were held to just six points while Starlites’ De Martino took over as the side scored 26 points to cruise to victory.

HIBERNIANS M. Buhagiar 4, E. Farrugia, F. Fabok 4, I. Agius 7, L. Whilby 11, J. Abela 5, S. Vella 10, K. Calleja 2, K. Caruana 5, A. Mallia, J. Dabic.

STARLITES JSD M. Zammit cordina 4, M. Riolo 3, A. Saliba 4, M. Sciberras, M. Bonett 14, S. De Martino 30, P. Cannon 17, P. Riolo, S. Davies 2, C. Curmi 4, Y. Ferrando.

Referees G. Barbara, N. Azzopardi.

FUSION QUEST 41

CAFFE MOAK LUXOL 79

(10-18, 11-18, 10-24, 10-19)

Luxol showed their mettle when they pushed aside Fusion Quest in a strong performance from Josephine Diaby and Sarah Fenech Pace.

Diaby hit the first layup of the game to set Luxol into the lead and this remained the story of the game as the Violets lead throughout the encounter. Sarah Fenech Pace, who led her team’s statistics with a double-double of 18 points and 16 rebounds, scored next and Tayler Bennett, the only other player in the game to hit a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, put her side past the 10-point mark.

It looked like nightmare start for Fusion as Luxol were on an 11-0 run before Ledesma finally got her side’s first point from a freethrow with 4.0 to go in the first quarter. She added a basket on her next play but Luxol were back attacking and Fenech Pace hit two from two freethrows before Milica Stefanovic emulated this on the other side of the court.

Fusion scored first as teams returned for the second quarter, momentarily reducing the margin. Soon after, however, Luxol went on another scoring run to get as high as 13 points ahead of their opponents. Ledesma and Nicole Vella responded to stop this, the latter also pushing hard on defence to try and stop the charging Fenech Pace and Bennett whose contributions had them up by 15 at the halftime break.

Diaby made the most of a lapse of concentration in defence from Fusion to grab the first rebound and points of the second half. Fenech Pace put Luxol 20 points ahead and Diaby was left open on the wing to score again – a strategic opening that appeared to have become a continuous struggle for Fusion to defend. In fact, a near-identical shot from Ella Abela extended the gap by 31 with three minutes to go in the third quarter.

By the start of the fourth quarter, Luxol were in complete control but they would not take their foot off the gas and Vanya Baldacchino opened the scoring with second-chance points within the first minute of the rubber. They continued to pile up the points and even reached a game-high lead of 42 points midway through the quarter. By then the game was all but over and Luxol held on to take the win.

FUSION QUEST M. Stefanovic 11, M. Momcilovic, S. Friend 4, E. Pace 3, A. Ledesma 18, M. Opauszki, N. Vella 5.

CAFFE MOAK LUXOL T. Bennett 13, H. Galea 2, N. Vella 3, E. Abela 8, M. Camilleri, S. Fenech Pace 18, J. Diaby 15, J. Said, V. Baldacchino 10, S. Farrugia 2, A. Fenech Pace 8.

Referees A. Bayraktar, G. Russo.

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