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Watch: ‘We’re starting to really understand each other better’, says Hix as Hibernians power past Luxol

Hibernians captain Anton Axiaq attempts to finish a layup through contact against Luxol. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Depiro edge Valletta in tight finale

Hibernians fired past Luxol at the Ta’ Qali Pavillion on Sunday in a game the Paolites led from start to finish. Coach Mario Tabone’s clan had three players in the 20-point mark as they got past a 39-point Tariq Woody and a youthful Luxol side who had to make do without an injured Nathan Xuereb.

Meanwhile, SiGMA Depiro and Valletta Fighters took it to the final minutes of their fixture before the Mtarfa side took the spoils in a game with numerous three-pointers on its agenda.

Finally, Mellieha Libertas climbed to the top of the Division One standings with their third straight victory, against a Gzira Athleta side that suffered their first defeat of the league campaign.



(30-26, 27-17, 24-30, 26-16)

On Sunday, Hibernians were playing after an Athleta defeat and a week’s break the previous weekend. Seemingly, the side played a motivated game to finish 18 points ahead of the opponents, one that forward Mason Hix believes was a collective showing.

“The team’s performance was very good today, we had a lot of people play well,” Hix told the Times of Malta.

“There was a big emphasis was staying together and playing together and I think we did that well, the scoreboard shows it.”

The American forward, who joined over the summer finished with 26 points and was just one rebound shy of a double-double. He also contributed six assists and was statistically the most effective player on the court for Hibs.

“The plan for me today was just to come out and play with intensity on both sides of the floor for a full 40 minutes,” he said.

“Our big goal for us was to play a full 40 minutes of basketball. I don’t think we played a full 40 but we played about 35 minutes, just playing with intensity and solid effort the whole game.”

Being one of the side’s newest players together with fellow US-import player Calvin Whipple, Hix has had to integrate with the rest of the squad and he lauded the team’s dynamic.

“The dynamic of the team is very good and it’s only getting better. We’re starting to gel and we’re starting to really understand each other’s game a lot better so it’s only up from here.”

Hibs were boosted by the absence of Luxol guard Nathan Xuereb who suffered a knock prior to the game, with Luxol going for youngster Isaac Azzopardi instead, who finished with double digits nonetheless.

Ivan Demcesen got the game’s first basket before Whipple drove up for the next. Hibs pushed up to seven with a Hix three-pointer before Gael Hulsen stopped the run with a mid-range effort. Nick Vasovic put Hibs past the 10-point mark with another two three-balls. Whipple made it a double-digit game to force a Luxol timeout.

Hix was in a fiery mood, hitting twice and taking on a strong defensive approach. On the other hand, Hulsen was Luxol’s offensive threat, forming the perfect matchup between the two forwards.

Scores from Hulsen and Woody brought the gap closer but it was Hibs who led by four after the first buzzer.

Whipple scored first in the second quarter with Hulsen issuing his team’s reply. Stefan Cappello made it a two-point game but Whipple had the ball through the hoop yet again.

Hibs were looking the more accurate side and scores from Hix, Whipple and Demcesen pushed the lead up to seven halfway through the rubber. Eventually, this became double digits again and the two sides went for the halftime break 14 points apart at 57-43.

After the change of ends, the game took a fast restart with constant responses from both sides. Luxol brought it down to single digits with 3.20 to go.

It was a seven-point game by the buzzer but Hulsen received a technical for time complaints to the officials, a free shot that Whipple anyway.

The final quarter was as close as ever but there was no stopping Hibs as with Hix rested momentarily, Demcesen took over the Paolites’ scoring, while keeping away an in-form Woody who had already achieved his double-double. Once Hibs overcame the 100-point mark, the game was done and dusted as they held on to take the win.

HIBERNIANS C. Whipple 23, P. Attard, B. Zammit, L. Farrugia, N. Vasovic 21, A. Axiaq 9, M. Hix 26, I. Demcesen 28.

LUXOL S. Pace, I. Azzopardi 11, N. Jovanovic 4, JP Schembri, G. Hulsen 24, S. Opojevlic, T. Woody 39, M. Matijevic 4, S. Cappello 7.

Referees J. Londono, N. Azzopardi, A. Bayraktar.



(31-19, 15-26, 15-24, 25-19)

In the day’s first game, Depiro scored full points from their encounter with Valletta Fighters. However, It was a tightly contested battle which only found its winner in the final seconds.

Deshaun Mattox opened proceedings with a three-pointer in the first minute of play. Nikola Bozovic had the chance to equalise a minute later with an and-one play but he missed his freethrow and was made to pay as on the next play, Neil Cassar took his chance from deep and opened a gap for Valletta.

Another three-ball was on the cards a minute later when Andy Attard put the Citizens over the 10-point mark with the first points against his old side. Meanwhile, Cassar, Matthew Farrugia, and Keith Charleston were solid in their defence under the hoop.

Kameron Rooks finally got Depiro’s second basket of the game with 4.45 to go and Cameron Cornelius hit twice to aide the Mtarfa side but Valletta continued to push and were up by 12 at the first buzzer.

Valletta started the second quarter just like the first, with another three-ball. Nicholas Grech drove up to restart the Depiro scoring but Charleston grabbed second-chance points on the next Mattox shot. The American, who finished with a 40 points-15 rebounds double-double by the end of the game, was putting on a first-half show but after Miguel Mallia, Nikola Bozovic, and Rooks scores, Depiro were back down by just a point at halftime.

Mallia opened the second half scoring with a floater as Depiro affected the game’s first lead change. Both sides were looking much more balanced and a Charleston and-one play put Valletta back on top, a play which resulted in Mallia being fouled out after a bit more than half the game. Nevertheless, Bozovic hit from three to start a tit-for-tat with Depiro leading by six midway through the third quarter. A late rush upped this lead as Depiro led 69-61 ahead of the final rubber.

Caution was the name of the game in the fourth quarter with defence playing its greatest part and points coming at a premium. In spite of this, the final minutes charged the players’ long-distance shooting with both sides hitting shots from deep to keep the score level. However, with seconds remaining, Depiro got their way when Valletta’s Cassar was fouled out before Cornelius and Bozovic combined for six to take the win.

VALLETTA FIGHTERS K. Charleston 40, S. saakian, R. Curmi, D. Mattox 24, A. Attard 9, M. Farrugia 7, U. Satyanarayan, N. Cassar 6.

SIGMA DEPIRO B. Mrkojevic 5, N. Bozovic 26, N. Grech 5, K. Rooks 20, M. Mallia 11, C. Cornelius 17, N. Bukva 4, M. Debattista.

Referees A. Bayraktar, N. Rincon, N. Azzopardi.



(25-25, 18-24, 18-21, 21-14)

Kwame Thompson hit first with a layup but Francesco Mifsud Bonnici answered back. Tedrick Wolfe got next with an and-one play.

Mellieha began to push through Wolfe on offence as Athleta’s Malik Riddle got warmed up with a layup and an and-one play. Defence was Athleta’s issue early on in the game with Christos Kousidis’ clan conceding twice from a goaltending call.

The introduction of Piotr Stelmach gave the side more size and confidence to eventually draw level with 3.19 to go in the first quarter. Matthew Gouder then put his side ahead with a three-pointer but it was level again at the first buzzer.

Mellieha took the lead immediately as the teams returned to play and shots from Thompson and a pair of dunks from Wolfe began to cause separation between the sides. At the other end, Nazzareno Buhagiar made an inspired entry to the game, putting up his fourth point in the quarter in between Riddle scores to keep it at six points behind Mellieha.

With seconds remaining and both teams in the bonus, Dajuan Moorer got his second basket of the game late in the second quarter, highlighting a particularly quiet game for the Athleta import player. However, Mellieha were the team in front at 49-43 at the halftime break.

The second half had a fast start as Athleta and Mellieha traded baskets with Stelmach levelling proceedings with just over a minute gone. A Corrado Mercurio three-pointer put Libertas back ahead.

Athleta were in foul trouble late in the rubber and Mellieha took a nine-point lead into the final quarter. This became 11 early in the fourth as Athleta began to struggle on defence.

A collision between Mellieha’s Thompson and Wolfe then saw a delay in play with the latter taken out of the game momentarily but this barely slowed them down as in spite of quick scores from Gouder and Riddle, Mercurio fired from three again as Mellieha were up by seven with 1.41 to go.

Riddle brought it down to four and Gouder made it two before Mifsud Bonnici got his marching orders after his fifth foul. Stelmach hit from the line after a technical foul before Moorer blocked a Thompson fastbreak with seconds to go as Athleta started to believe in a miracle comeback but David Bugeja hit one of two freethrows to break their hearts and take the game.

GZIRA ATHLETA M. Riddle 20, F. Mifsud Bonnici 11, N. Buhagiar 4, L. Stefanovic 2, D. Moorer 8, M. Gouder 22, P. Stelmach 15, J. Cefai.

MELLIEHA LIBERTAS T. Wolfe 26, D. Bugeja 13, R. Bonnici, V. Jandric 14, I. Bonett 3, K. Thompson 22, C. Mercurio 6.

Referees B. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosaviljevic, J. Londono.

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