Starlites edge past Luxol in top-of-the-table clash
Depiro secured their second straight victory in the MAPFRE MSV LIFE Women’s League when they beat Hibernians at the Ta’ Qali Pavillion.
It was a show of force from both sides’ US import players as Jose Ann Johnson and Lyndsey Whilby scored a total of 58 points between them.
Meanwhile, a clash of titans saw Starlites overcome Caffe Moak Luxol by three points to get their revenge for the John Tabone Shield final.
(15-18, 11-15, 15-22, 17-9)
The game on Saturday pitted against each other the summer’s big spenders and a team that has struggled in recent seasons. However, it looked mostly balanced for the majority of the encounter and Depiro guard Sophie Abela believes the team has not yet reached its potential.
“The game clearly had its ups and downs from our point of view, however, a win is a win and we must now focus on our next challenge,” Abela told the Times of Malta.
“We have not yet shown our true abilities as a team, but I am confident we will.”
Abela, who joined Depiro over the summer together with fellow Malta international Kristy Galea and Jamaican centre Johnson, returned to Malta after several years playing college ball in the US.
Asked about this transition, Abela – who is also co-captaining the side with Claire Ciantar – said it is a ‘great pleasure’ because the players all share the same targets.
“It was a big transition for me of course after four years in the US. So far it has been very positive, I just struggle to accept that basketball is not a high priority in Malta, for obvious reasons, but I still try and make the most of it,” she said.
“The fact that I was assigned captaincy together with Claire, is great pleasure. We are all working toward the same goal and I love being able to do it with this particular team.”
During the off-season, Depiro invested heavily in their roster to try to overcome powerhouses Starlites and Luxol in the women’s league and Abela said trust and strict defence will be key for them when facing the two sides, especially with Starlites being their next opponent.
“Starlites and Luxol are two very strong teams and of course, there are many things that we must do in order to compete with them and not just one,” she explained.
“However, I think being strict with ourselves on defence and trusting each other will play a huge role for us.”
Depiro went ahead immediately on Saturday and their speed was personified through Julia Xerri who combined with Johnson as Hibernians coach Sandro Farrugia was forced into calling an early timeout to slow the game’s momentum.
Whilby opened Hibs’ scoring with a three-pointer two minutes into the game. Jasmine Abela added another as the Paolites made it a one-point game before Kirsty Caruana gave her side the lead midway through the first quarter.
Depiro were back ahead with a Julia Borg three-ball. Borg and Abela combined for four points in between another Whilby score as Adrian Baldacchino’s clan led by three points at the first buzzer.
Hibs’ Whilby opened the second quarter scoring with two made freethrows but Johnson was back up for another pair of layups.
It was looking like a well-balanced first half and Hibs’ Caruana equalised with a three-ball just over two minutes away from the break. Once more, Johnson was there to put Depiro ahead before Kristy Galea and Noeleen Agius assured the side’s seven-point lead at the end of the quarter.
Johnson added another two points with the first play after the change of ends. Xerri made it a double-digit lead with a long-distance shot. Whilby and Abela’s efforts put Hibs past the 30-point mark but it was a 14-point lead for Depiro at the end of the third quarter.
Depiro’s Abela opened the final quarter’s scoring before Whilby replied with two points of her own.
The Mtarfa side took over again but it was a six-point game as Whilby continued to lead Hibs’ offensive midway through the rubber. Despite this, Depiro took the spoils at the final buzzer.
HIBERNIANS M. Buhagiar 9; F. Fabok 5; I. Agius; L. Whilby 30; J. Abela 9; S. Vella, K. Caruana 5, J. Dabic.
DEPIRO S. Abela 6; N. Agius, J. Xerri 10; L. Sciberras; N. Agius 3; J. Borg 12; J. Johnson 28; N. Borg; K. Galea 5; L. Camilleri.
Referees A. Bayraktar, B. Vassallo.
STARLITES JSD 59
CAFFE MOAK LUXOL 56
(22-11, 14-21, 14-16, 9-8)
After facing each other in two finals, Starlites and Luxol were back in action against one another. And while Luxol emerged victorious the last time round in the John Tabone Shield final, Starlites got their revenge in the two sides’ first meeting in the league.
Starlites opened the game’s scoring with an Andie Saliba three-pointer. The game fell into a short lull before Saliba grabbed her second score of the day with a layup. Anna Fenech Pace scored Luxol’s first basket before Shanice Farrugia fired from three to equalise.
A Paige Cannon and-one play started a 5-0 run for Starlites before Tayler Bennett got her first two points of an eventual 21 to stop the run. However, it was the title holders who maintained their advantage to finish the first quarter ahead by 11.
Fenech Pace was first to register second-quarter points as Luxol were back down by single digits. Lisa Fenech Pace added a three-ball before Starlites’ Maria Bonett had her say from mid-range. Luxol then proceeded to go on a 5-0 run but Steffi De Martino put the ball through the hoop to help keep Stralites’ lead intact.
It was as close as ever at both ends of the court and the scoring rhythm took a hit as the teams strived for their best defence and the margin at just three mid-way through the rubber, one which climbed to four by halftime.
Luxol’s Bennett opened the second half before a Mikela Riolo three-pointer. Both sides looked to counter each other and with five minutes gone in the third quarter, Luxol changed the lead with a Bennett and-one play. Cannon levelled terms again on Starlites’ next play with a spin to evade her marker before scoring.
The final quarter was do-or-die for the teams and Starlites’ Riolo hit from deep to open the team’s margin in front. Josephine Diaby replied with a score from mid-range and Fenech Pace equalised with a three-pointer of her own.
The final minutes were as tense as ever and while Bennett had put her side ahead again, De Martino, Cannon, and Riolo combined for five points to take the game with the closest of margins.
STARLITES JSD M. Zammit Cordina 1; M. Riolo 15; A. Saliba 8; M. Bonett 8; S. De Martino 11; P. Cannon 16; C. Curmi.
CAFFE MOAK LUXOL T. Bennett 21; L. Fenech Pace 3; N. Vella; S. Fenech Pace 7; J. Diaby 2; S. Farrugia 9; A. Fenech Pace 14.
Referees B. Vassallo, J. Londono.
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