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Watch: ‘We’re still growing’ says Moorer as Athleta end year with Valletta win

Gzira Athleta's DaJuan Moorer tips the ball away from Valletta Fighters' Matthew Farrugia. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Luxol score close victory over Depiro

Gzira Athleta garnered their fourth win of the season when they beat Valletta Fighters with a second-half rally at the Ta’ Qali pavillion to end the year on a high note.

Meanwhile, Starlites fell to their second defeat of the campaign against a resilient Hibernians side before Luxol edged past Depiro in a nail-biting encounter to end the day.

Speaking to the Times of Malta, Athleta’s Dajuan Moorer called the Maroons ‘a growing team’ as the Christos Kousidis-led team is beginning to show signs of their title-winning mentality from 2019.

“I’m just happy we can get a W before the break,” Moorer said, “we dropped our last two games so this is really a momentum boost. It gives us confidence going into the new year so I’m just happy we could close out on the win.

“We’re still growing, still putting pieces together. Some nights we look kind of shaky but we’re growing as a team and our chemistry is getting better.”

Moorer, brought in over the summer, had an impressive start individually, but he dipped in form temporarily as Malik Riddle took the reins of the team’s offence. Now, the American looks to be back and he believes it’s the highs and lows of the sport.

“It’s part of the game. You have high nights and low nights,” he said, “but I’m trying to be a pro and stay consistent. When it’s not my night, I keep the energy for my players.”

VALLETTA FIGHTERS 83

GZIRA ATHLETA 105

(15-25, 34-30, 13-24, 21-26)

As expected from the teams’ run so far, Athleta took control of the game’s opening, hitting first through Piotr Stelmach.

However, it was a slow start for both as the teams amassed just 14 points between them in five minutes as defence was the main focus. However, with Athleta in the bonus midway through the rubber, the onus was on the Maroons to make something of it.

The final four minutes changed the tempo of the game as the sides turned more offensive and it was Athleta who led by 10 at the first buzzer after a double-digit quarter from Malik Riddle.

Valletta’s Keith Charleston opened the second quarter with an and-one before Riddle and Dajuan Moorer both scored dunks to keep up their lead.

Charleston was a man on a mission in the second quarter, bringing his side back down by single digits after scores from Ryan Abela and Luca Stefanovic. The American big man continued to push, exceeding the 20-point mark as he brought Valletta to within three points with three minutes to go in the half.

The Maroons were back in control after the change of ends, and back up by 11 five minutes into the second half. Defence was an issue for the Fighters as Athleta found open spaces with diagonal passes as all of their players got on the scoresheet by the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Juan Cefai and Naz Buhagiar took over the final quarter’s scoring for Athleta as Valletta remained reliant on their import players Charleston and Desean Mattox. Stelmach made the gap 21 with 2.40 to go in the game as there was no stopping the Maroons as coach Kousidis’s clan made it four wins on the season at the final buzzer.

VALLETTA FIGHTERS K. Charleston 42, D. Mattox 18, A. Attard 3, M. Farrugia, N. Cassar 12, S. Saakian 2, J. Lisondra 1, U. Satyanarayan 5, D. Militello.

GZIRA ATHLETA M. Riddle 31, F. Mifsud Bonnici 5, D. Moorer 21, M. Gouder 9, P. Stelmach 13, N. Buhagiar 4, L. Stefanovic 10, R. Abela 6, T. Chatzimoysis 2, J. Cefai 4.

Referees G. Barbara, F. Ciurariu, F. Fabok.

Hibs power past Starlites

STARLITES JSD 85

HIBERNIANS 99

(24-23, 25-29, 17-23, 19-24)

Anton Axiaq returned to the starting five in place of the injured Calvin Whipple as Hibernians struck a second-half victory against title-holders Starlites.

Davonte Craven and Matt Attard gave the game a flying start, combining for five points immediately. Hibs’ Mason Hix opened his team’s account with a pair of made freethrows as the game was well underway.

A well-balanced quarter saw the sides finish just a point apart at the first buzzer after Hibs’ Ivan Demcesen put up 14 points, and Felice Pace brothers Ian and Alec combined for 13.

Hix gave the Paolites the lead with two threeballs as the second quarter began, Demcesen adding another three points before Nick Vasovic made it a 10-point game.

Starlites’ Miguel Fabri stopped Hibs’ early run with a three-pointer but was made to pay as he fouled Vasovic as the Hibs guard got into double-digits with full points from an and-one. Despite this, Craven and Attard brought the deficit down to four with 3.31 to go in the half. Kurt James and Vasovic traded threes and Craven kept Starlites as close as three points below Hibs with a buzzer-beating jumpshot.

Ian Felice Pace and Vasovic hit threes on opposite sides of the court as the second half began. With Demcesen in form, Hibs began to reopen their gap and Billy Joel Zammit made it 11 with 3.04 to go.

As if the game hadn’t been exciting enough, the fourth quarter turned to be an electric set of minutes, but it was Hibs who reached furthest into their chest of talents with Demcesen, Hix, and Vasovic all going past the 20-point mark, whilst troubling Starlites with good defence to keep their supporters on their feet.

Hibs continued to push into the final seconds to take their fourth win of their campaign and hand Starlites their second loss of the season since opening day.

STARLITES JSD A. Felice Pace 14, M. Attard 5, I. Felice Pace 14, D. Craven 22, K. James 17, C. Hinckson 2, M. Fabri 9, L. Farrugia 2.

HIBERNIANS N. Vasovic 26, A. Axiaq 3, M. Attard 2, M. Hix 31, I. Demcesen 32, N. Zammit 5.

Referees B. Vassallo, N. Rincon, G. Barbara.

SIGMA DEPIRO 87

LUXOL 90

(22-26, 20-30, 25-25, 20-9)

Cameron Cornelius gave Depiro the lead within the first minute, Kameron Rooks adding one from under the hoop. Luxol’s Tariq Woody replied with an identical score at the other end of the court with Gael Hulsen pushing up through contact for Luxol’s second score.

Despite another Cornelius effort, Nathan Xuereb hit from three-point range to change leads before Woody and Hulsen extended his side’s lead with long-range efforts themselves.

With 3.56 to go in the quarter, Depiro got back in front with a Miguel Brincat three-pointer as long-range became the way to go in the game.

Cornelius was once more the first scorer of the quarter as play restarted but a JP Schembri three-pointer followed scores from Woody, Hulsen, and Ian Azzopardi to give Luxol a five-point lead.

Luxol were 10 points ahead with a minute to go in the first half but with Depiro playing inside the paint, foul trouble gave the Mtarfa side late motivation. Nevertheless, Xuereb hit his third and fourth triple of the half to counter Rooks freethrows and send the Violets for the break up 56-42.

Depiro’s Sean Galea opened the second half scoring with a three-ball but Luxol continued to press harder through the wings as Xuereb led coach Duncan Fenech-led Violets’ charge for a 14-point lead ahead of the final rubber.

Brincat initiated the fourth quarter with a three-pointer but suffered an awkward fall on his next fastbreak which spelt the end of his game.

Nevertheless, Depiro were creeping forward, now trailing by just five points and in the bonus midway through the final set of minutes. Nikola Bozovic hit his first points of the evening with a long-range effort as tensions were sky-high in the final stages of the game.

SIGMA DEPIRO N. Bozovic 3, A. Aquilina 2, K. Rooks 34, M. Brincat 11, C. Cornelius 24, S. Galea 7, N. Bukva 6.

LUXOL I. Azzopardi 14, J. Schembri 6, N. Xuereb 31, G. Hulsen 15, T. Woody 24, S. Pace, N. Jovanovic.

Referees Z. Dobrosaviljevic, A. Bayraktar, J. Londono.

STANDINGS

Mellieha Libertas 12; Gzira Athleta 11; Hibernians 10; Starlites JSD, Luxol, SiGMA Depiro 8; Valletta Fighters 6.

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