Hibernians overcome 100-point mark against Fusion
A solid team performance by Depiro earned them a well-deserved victory over league leaders Starlites JSD as the Naxxar side, missing import player Paige Cannon, lost their unbeaten streak on Saturday. Meanwhile, Hibernians overcame the 100-point mark as they powered through against Fusion Quest.
STARLITES JSD 49
(17-17, 10-19, 12-16, 10-16)
Speaking to the Times of Malta after the win, Depiro coach Adrian Baldacchino said it was defence that made all the difference, lauding his team’s strength.
“Most of the difference came from the urgency that players like Kristy (Galea) and Sophie (Abela) have on defence. I think defence was key, especially to hold a team like Starlites to just 49 points,” Baldacchino said.
“The team’s resilience was vital for the victory. We have a great defensive team, and it makes all the difference.”
With the battle for the top spot in full swing, each of the league’s teams will be pushing for first place by the end of the regular season, to avoid the semi-final clash and head straight to the post-season finals. Asked about this, the Depiro mentor said it’s still anybody’s game.
“We usually take things game by game but if we keep up the good performances, I think we have a good chance for first place- winning against teams like Starlites is already a good sign,” he said.
“I don’t like to look at placing all that much, but our objective was to secure a playoffs spot. Even though it’s not mathematically done yet, I think we’re on the right track.
“At the moment, there is a big fight going on and it’s still anybody’s game for the playoffs.”
On Saturday, Starlites’ Michela Zammit Cordina wasted no time to open proceedings with a corner three-pointer on the team’s first play. Steffi De Martino then hit from the opposite corner before Mikela Riolo made it three straight three-pointers.
The title holders were up by double-digits after an 11-0 run, with Depiro calling a time-out.
De Martino hit from deep again before Jose Ann Johnson finally broke Depiro’s duck with a mid-range jumpshot. From then onwards, the Mtarfa side turned on the ignition, conceding just three points and finishing the first quarter level at 17-17.
A Sophie Abela fastbreak kicked off the second quarter scoring after nearly two minutes of play. This became a Depiro nine-point run as Starlites began to struggle. However, Christina Curmi rose for second-chance points with 5.38 remaining in the first half.
Zammit Cordina hit another three-pointer to make it a six-point game as the Starlites guard administered the team’s offence while Curmi led its defence. Despite this, Galea hit two freethrows – what would eventually go on to be a five out of five finish – to shift momentum back to Depiro as Baldachhino’s clan took a nine-point lead to the dressing room for halftime.
Depiro’s defence played its part immediately after the change of ends as a Claire Ciantar block led to another Abela layup with the Mtarfa side now up by double digits. Ciantar added to Starlites’ woes by hitting from three on the team’s next play.
Rebounding leader Abela could not be boxed out as Depiro continued their defensive charge, forcing Starlites coach Fatih Dedelioglu to call a timeout with 7.53 to go in the third quarter. The Naxxar side tried to get back into rhythm, and Andie Saliba was accurate from three amid the strict defence, but Depiro pushed their offence through Galea, the Malta international shifting play with great vision to combine with Ciantar and Johnson for a 52-39 finish to the rubber.
The final set of minutes would be decisive, and it was Depiro again on the offensive as Ciantar hit her first shot from the line, Johnson making it a three-point score after grabbing the rebound from a missed second freethrow.
With Depiro in full control, the margin overcame the 20-point mark and despite a late Riolo three-ball, there was nothing Starlites could do to stop a Depiro win.
STARLITES JSD M. Zammit Cordina 8, M. Riolo 9, A. Saliba 4, M. Fenech, M. Bonett 9, S. De Martino 14, C. Cilia 2, C. Curmi 3.
DEPIRO S. Abela 8, N. Agius 3, J. Xerri 4, L. Sciberras 2, C. Ciantar 8, J. Borg 9, J. Johnson 17, K. Galea 17.
Referees Z. Dobrosaviljevic, N. Azzopardi.
FUSION QUEST 35
(16-14, 25-3, 34-5, 26-13)
Hibernians made a statement victory in a clash at the bottom of the standings. In spite of this, it was Fusion Quest’s Nicole Vella who opened the game’s scoring ahead of a good showing in which she put up 19 points and four rebounds. Marie Buhagiar issued Hibernians’ reply with a mid-range jumpshot to level terms.
Fusion guard Julia Schembri hit from three in what appeared to be a positive opening to the game from the side that has struggled so far this season.
Hibs’ Fanni Fabok made it a one-point game with 7.13 to go in the first quarter before Vella spun around her marker to reopen Fusion’s marginal lead. This balance continued until the final minute of the rubber when Lyndsey Whilby equalised after escaping two defenders under the hoop.
Kirsty Caruana gave the Paolites their first lead of the day right before the buzzer and despite the break, it would be the seventh point of a run that was stopped yet again by Vella as the second quarter began.
The ensuing minutes would be Fusion’s roughest patch of the game as apart from Vella’s score and a freethrow by the same player, those would be the only points scored by the team as Hibs went on a 25-1 run before halftime.
Whilby bagged the first points of the second half before an even better quarter for Hibs, holding Fusion to just five points scored by Schembri and Vella. Meanwhile, Buhagiar and the rest of the Hibs clan rushed through the Fusion defence to take a 53-point lead into the final rubber.
Hibs’ Amy Mallia opened the fourth quarter with a fine mid-range finish before a Kaya Calleja interception saw Whilby speed through, assisting the Paolites youngster for one of eight scores for an 18-point finish.
The final quarter had already been a formality, but when Calleja scored again for Hibs’ 101st point, the game was done and dusted with the teams standing 66 points apart at the final buzzer.
HIBERNIANS M. Buhagiar 18, E. Farrugia 4, F. Fabok 6, I. Agius 10, L. Whilby 27, J. Abela 8, K. Calleja 18, K. Caruana 6, A. Mallia 4.
FUSION QUEST H. Grixti 2, M. Momcilovic, J. Schembri 8, E. Pace 3, M. Opauszki 2, N. Vella 19, N. Montalvo 1.
Referees F. Ciurariu, A. Bayraktar.
Starlites JSD 15; Depiro 14; Caffe Moak Luxol 13*; Hibernians 10; Fusion Quest8.
*Luxol did not feature in last weekend’s games.
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