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‘Conservative’ Luxol aiming for consistency in search of playoff spot

Luxol’s Marko Matijevic holds the ball away from Hibs’ Mason Hix (right) and Nick Brennen. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Luxol put up a statement performance in the BOV Men’s Division One over the weekend, to head home from the Ta’ Qali Pavilion with a win over a strong Hibernians side on Sunday that saw the Nathan XuerebTariq Woody tandem go all out to finish with 30+ points each.

Meanwhile, league leaders Mellieha Libertas showed no mercy as they cruised past Athleta, who faced their first defeat after a positive run of games. Straight after, Alfred Hollins Jr led the SiGMA Depiro charge as they finished the day’s fixtures with a 24-point victory over Valletta Fighters.



(20-23, 23-23, 29-17, 22-18)

This season, Luxol have had mixed emotions in the league, winning four out of the 10 games played so far. Speaking to the Times of Malta, coach Duncan Fenech believes keeping composure was key to their win against Hibernians, who have had a revitalised season so far.

“We’ve come from two games in which we’ve made progress,” Fenech said, “the team, with all its new elements, is settling in and I think we’ve shown character to keep control and take advantage of times where (Hibs) were down.

“We’ve had games where we were winning by a big margin, yet we ended up losing them. Today, in fact, I told my players ‘You’ve managed to keep your composure and we played the game until the end’. One of the things we’ve worked on was defensively to concede fewer points and this has helped us fight better.”

Last summer, the club made a statement signing with Malta international Xuereb, a player who had been, until July, a one-club man. On Sunday, the former Athleta guard put on what was possibly his best showing of the new season, second in scoring after 32 points with 66.7% accuracy, five of six three-pointers made, as well as six assists with just one turnover. Fenech believes Xuereb’s performance after this can only get better.

Luxol guard Nathan Xuereb (centre) motivates his teammates ahead of play on Sunday. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

“(Xuereb) has made big improvements – he was at one club for all of his life and he came here and faced a change of culture and is now playing with different people so naturally there were ups and downs. I hope his performance remains like this.”

While Luxol brought in Xuereb, together with Woody, Gael Hulsen, and Nikola Jovanovic (local-foreigner) as their import summer additions, as well as young trio Sebastian Pace, Isaac and Adam Azzopardi, the Pembroke side has held back from making any changes over the winter break. Asked about this, Fenech said the club is known to take a more conservative approach.

“As long as I’ve been involved with the seniors, we’ve always been conservative about these things as we’ve observed that there are instances where a club spends a lot of money, but this does not reap the desired rewards,” he explained, “So, it’s not necessarily a case of ‘spend and be guaranteed success’.

“For us, the important thing is making sure that whatever we do works. As it stands at the moment, I believe that if we push and keep the intensity, and more importantly pull on the same rope, we can continue to give good performances. Winning or losing is another thing, but we will try as hard as possible to get that fourth spot.”

Nick Brennen hit the first basket of the afternoon as Hibernians took over after a miss from Luxol on their opening play. Woody, however, levelled terms for the Violets seconds later to make amends.

Paolites winter signing Brennen has been in inspired form since joining in December, averaging 24.6 points so far after three games played. On Sunday, he got his side’s next points with a three-pointer before compatriot Mason Hix gave Hibs a four-point lead with a score and two freethrows.

Hulsen levelled terms midway through the quarter, but Matthew Attard and Brennen hit back to force the game’s first time out. This balance in play remained until the first buzzer as Hibs led by just three.

Game top-scorer Woody, Luxol’s only double-double finisher on the day with 35 points and 23 rebounds, changed leads early in the second quarter but Brennen was on hand to take it back as Hibs’ sole double-double finisher Ivan Demcesen (14pts-15reb) was helped back to the sidelines after a knee injury. The non-stop responses came from both ends of the court throughout the rubber, with Luxol’s Xuereb going full blast to counter the Paolites advances. However, it was Mario Tabone’s clan who led 47-43 at the halftime break.

Xuereb gave the Violets the lead with a three-ball after Hulsen’s opener as the second half looked to be just as fast-paced as the first. It was the Violets who surged ahead with their offensive play, going eight points into the lead ahead of the final quarter.

Luxol’s Woody opened the fourth rubber after fantastic vision from JP Schembri to assist, the latter hitting next from three-point range on the following play. Foul trouble made it tougher for Hibs, particularly with Hix fouling out after having survived on four fouls for most of the second half. To make matters worse for them, Woody and Xuereb made the most out of their hot hand to send their side up by double digits in the game’s final minutes to give coach Fenech’s side the victory.

LUXOLI. Azzopardi 5, N. Xuereb 32, G. Hulsen 10, T. Woody 35, M. Matijevic 4, N. Jovanovic, JP Schembri 6, S. Cappello 2.
HIBERNIANSA. Axiaq 6, M. Attard 9, M. Hix 15, I. Demcesen 14, N. Brennen 27, P. Attard 3, B. Zammit, L. Farrugia 8.
RefereesG. Barbara, F. Ciurariu, N. Azzopardi.

Mellieha stay top after Athleta blowout



(23-17, 28-18, 19-18, 25-14)

Athleta had the perfect start when after a stabbing drive into the paint, Francesco Mifsud Bonnici found an open Luca Stefanovic who hit from three-point range. Malik Riddle added three points from an and-one play before double-double finisher Tedrick Wolfe (25pts-14reb) got Mellieha’s first points with a trademark dunk.

21-point Vukasin Jandric found his shooting to hit twice from three as Mellieha switched leads with 2.56 to go in the first quarter, kickstarting his side’s momentum to take a six-point lead into the second quarter.

This lead grew into double digits less than two minutes into the second rubber and it spelt trouble for Christos Kousidis’ side as Mellieha went on a 13-0 run before finally Riddle drove up to score with 5.52 to go in the first half. The Northerners’ domination grew into a 20+ point margin despite Athleta being in the bonus for the final minutes of the quarter.

Athleta’s top performer on the day with 23 points and 18 rebounds for a double-double, Dajuan Moorer, opened the second half scoring as Athleta had a 14-point deficit to overcome. But Kwame Thompson and the Mellieha squad had other things to say as they maintained their lead in spite of foul trouble and a charge by the Maroons.

Mellieha’s David Bugeja, just an assist and two rebounds short of a triple-double (14pts/9ast/8reb), hit first as the final quarter began, scoring three baskets, and assisting another for a 23-point advantage. This grew to 28 as coach Ian Terribile’s clan took home the blowout win.

MELLIEHA LIBERTAS T. Wolfe 25, D. Bugeja 14, V. Jandric 21, I. Bonett, K. Thompson 15, R. Bonnici 9, R. Carabott, E. Valdespina 3, C. Mercurio 8.
ATHLETA M. Riddle 15, F. Mifsud Bonnici, L. Stefanovic 12, D. Moorer 23, M. Gouder 10, N. Buhagiar 4, E. Abela, R. Abela, J. Garcia Cefai 3.
Referees B. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosaviljevic, A. Bayraktar.

Depiro back to winning ways



(21-11, 18-20, 23-10, 22-19)

In another cruising victory on Sunday, Depiro’s Andrew Aquilina profited off a miscommunication on Valletta’s first offensive possession, speeding to lay the ball up into the hoop before hitting twice from three on his next attempts. Meanwhile, Desean Mattox returned from injury in the previous week to open his account in the game with two three-balls himself.

The Citizens guard went on to score 11 points as the only Valletta scorer in the quarter while Depiro led by 10 at the buzzer.

Valletta’s Keith Charleston got his first points of the day in the second quarter with two straight scores before Nikola Bozovic replied for Depiro. Mattox, Charleston, and Andy Attard all hit from three to make it a one-point game midway through the rubber. Depiro’s Hollins Jr hit two of two freethrows but Valletta’s Neil Cassar fired a bow-and-arrow celebration after adding another three-ball as the teams were tied with four minutes to go in the first half.

Nevertheless, a late surge from the Mtarfa side pushed their lead to eight before the break, despite being in foul trouble.

Valletta’s Attard opened the second half with a long-range score as coach Harry Savaya’s clan attempted a comeback. However, Depiro continued their positive streak to go 20 points ahead with 3.57 until the final rubber.

Depiro’s Hollins Jr may have only played one game with the club prior to Sunday, but he staked his claim as the top performer of the encounter with a 23-point showing and was his side’s driver in the fourth quarter as coach Ruben Baldacchino’s clan maintained a 24-point advantage to win the game.

SIGMA DEPIRO A. Aquilina 19, K. Rooks 14, C. Cornelius 9, N. Bukva 6, M. Debattista 3, S. Galea, N. Bozovic, N. Grech, A. Hollins 23, A. Micallef, M. Brincat, M. Mallia.
VALLETTA FIGHTERS K. Charleston 14, N. Da Silva, D. Mattox 27, A. Attard 8, N. Cassar 5, D. Bellinzona 6, J. Wait, M. Farrugia, J. Lisondra.
Referees B. Vassallo, J. Londono, I. Simic.


Mellieha Libertas 19; Athleta 16; Hibernians, Luxol, Starlites JSD* 14; SiGMA Depiro 12; Valletta Fighters 10.

*Starlites did not feature in last weekend’s games.

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