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Knockout semifinalists confirmed after dramatic victories

Hibernians' Mason Hix rises up towards the hoop against Valletta Fighters. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Hibernians, Depiro, Mellieha all progress from quarterfinals

Drama was on the cards last weekend as teams battled it out in the BOV Men’s Division One knockout quarterfinals. With Starlites JSD awarded a bye when the draws were held back in January, Hibernians progressed over Valletta Fighters, SiGMA Depiro shut out Athleta, and Mellieha Libertas cruised past Luxol.



(16-20, 24-22, 25-12, 30-27)

Mason Hix hit the opening basket with the first shot of the game with Keith Charleston responding with a contested layup after a fastbreak. A couple of minutes later, Anton Axiaq gave Hibernians the lead before making it a three-point advantage midway through the first quarter.

The Paolites were the more dominant side but efforts from Neil Cassar, Desean Mattox, and Andy Attard pushed Valletta not only to equalise, but eventually go ahead through another Charleston layup.

It was a hotter second quarter as both sides showed off their knock-out mentality ahead of half time. Billy Joel Zammit came off the bench to open the second quarter scoring with a three-pointer before Paul Zammit added another as Hibs levelled the game after a minute and a half of play.

Charleston, who finished the game with 22 points and a rebound short of a double-double, hit back for the Citizens and it was game on with teams answering each other consistently at both ends of the court before a Charleston triple sent the two sets of players back to the changing rooms two points away from each other at 42-40 in favour of Valletta.

While it was Harry Savaya’s Citizens who led the charge in the first half, it was Hibs’ turn to strike at the business end of the game. When Ivan Demcesen opened the third quarter with a close-range effort, the Paolites centre became his side’s offensive focal point. His 12 offensive rebounds gave the Serbian big man the momentum to set up a powerful second half. Demcesen finished the game with a 27 points-21 rebounds double-double.

Team defence was also highlighted after the change of ends and when Hibs held Valletta to just 12 points in the third quarter, it looked like Mario Tabone’s clan would attempt to hold the fort for the final 10 minutes of the game.

Tensions rose with just 25 seconds to go in the third quarter after Valletta forward Julian Wait went down asking for a foul. With players separated to avoid clashes, the ball was initially heading Valletta’s way after the stoppage, but Savaya was handed a technical and eventually ejected for excessive arguments with Hibs up by 11 at the buzzer.

Despite all this, it was far from easy in the final rubber and it took a powerful offensive showing in the fourth quarter to keep up Hibs’ double-digit margin and take a 14-point victory which takes them into the semifinals.

HIBERNIANSP. Attard 9, B. Zammit 3, L. Farrugia 7, A. Axiaq 8, M. Attard 12, M. Hix 29, I. Demcesen 27.
VALLETTA FIGHTERSK. Charleston 22, N. Da Silva, J. Wait, D. Mattox 31, A. Attard 15, M. Farrugia, J. Lisondra, N. Cassar 13.
RefereesF. Ciurariu, N. Azzopardi, N. Rincon.



(12-10, 14-7, 14-16, 25-11)

Depiro continued their positive streak of late when they held revelation side Athleta to just 44 points in a low-scoring victory on Sunday.

Depiro’s Kameron Rooks hit the game’s first points before Malik Riddle answered back with the second layup of the encounter. From then onwards, points came at a premium. Rooks, who led the game with 23 points and 20 rebounds by the end of the affair, was the Mtarfa side’s go-to on offence but good defence from Athleta compensated for their shooting off-day to finish the first quarter down by two at 12-10.

Cameron Cornelius hit from the freethrow line to start the second quarter, it became a similar issue until halftime, with Athleta shooting worse to only score seven by the end of the rubber as Depiro led 26-17 by the change of ends.

Depiro’s Miguel Brincat drove up to put his side into a double-digit lead as the third quarter began. Matthew Gouder answered with a three for Athleta, but Brincat hit a long-range score to bring things to the status quo.

Riddle hit an athletic dunk to bring the Maroons back into temporary single digits. It was an unusually low-scoring game for the Athleta import player who nevertheless finished with a 16 points-18 rebounds double-double.

The final part of the third quarter brought Athleta to within seven points but Ruben Baldacchino’s clan switched on their afterchargers in the final rubber for their only 20+ point quarter that was enough to secure victory and offer passage to the next round.

SIGMA DEPIROS. Galea 3, N. Bozovic 2, A. Aquilina 12, A. Hollins Jr 4, K. Rooks 23, M. Brincat 10, M. Mallia 2, C. Cornelius 7, N. Bukva 2, M. Debattista.
ATHLETAM. Riddle 16, F. Mifsud Bonnici 6, L. Stefanovic, D. Moorer, M. Gouder 15, E. Abela, P. Stelmach 7, A. Garzia.
RefereesB. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosaviljevic, A. Bayraktar.



(19-30, 18-19, 14-19, 11-40)

League leaders Mellieha remained on course for a season treble with a comfortable victory over Luxol. Similar to their last meeting, Libertas showed their prowess and finished the game up by more than 40 points, this time beating the Violets by 46 points.

Despite all this, it was Luxol’s JP Schembri who opened proceedings with a three-pointer. Mellieha’s David Bugeja scored his side’s first point from the line. Tedrick Wolfe euro-stepped his way to levelling terms before Alexander Peacock gave Libertas the lead from one of two freethrows.

From then onwards, it was Mellieha’s game as Wolfe, who led the game in scoring with 27 points, contributed to a 5-0 run, stopped by a Nikola Jovanovic three-ball. Despite the defeat, it was the Luxol forward’s best scoring performance of the season, leading his team with 26 points on a 53.3% field goal percentage on the day.

Nevertheless, Mellieha continued to rack up their points for an 11-point advantage at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter was a closer affair with Luxol beginning to settle into the game. Vukasin Jandric bagged the first points as the game restarted but Nathan Xuereb, who was Luxol’s only other double-digit scorer with 15 points, took over to try and match Mellieha’s offence. However, it was 12 points for the latter in the lead as the sides were separated at 49-37 by halftime.

The second half was a mirror image of the first, with Luxol battling to try and catch up but Mellieha maintaining their lead with another 19 points which appeared to break coach Duncan Fenech’s side ahead of the final quarter.

With the deficit at 17 at the start of the fourth quarter, Mellieha’s Kwame Thompson shimmied past the Luxol defenders for points 69 and 70 as the floodgates opened and eventually, Mellieha went on their greatest run of the game, 11-0. The game was all but over when Peacock dunked and Thompson scored to push Libertas past the 100-point mark but Ian Terribile’s clan continued to surge until the final buzzer and a black-on-white confirmation of their spot in the semifinals.

LUXOLS. Pace, I. Azzopardi 2, N. Jovanovic 26, A. Azzopardi, JP Schembri 3, N. Xuereb 15, G. Hulsen 4, M. Matijevic 10, S. Cappello 2.
MELLIEHA LIBERTAST. Wolfe 27, D. Bugeja 15, R. Bonnici 8, V. Jandric 15, I. Bonett 4, A. Peacock 15, K. Thompson 16, C. Mercurio 8.
RefereesZ. Dobrosaviljevic, A. Bayraktar, B. Vassallo.


(to be played on March 3)

Starlites JSD vs Hibernians – 14.00

Depiro vs Mellieha Libertas – 16.00

Final to be played on March 10 (tip-off 16.00)

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