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Starlites kickstart Knockout campaign against Hibernians as Valletta protest denied

Starlites and Hibernians face off in the BOV Men's Knockout semifinals on Sunday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Mellieha resume treble hunt with Depiro clash

The BOV Knockout continues this weekend with the semifinal round on Sunday. The day opens with a clash between Starlites JSD and Hibernians, followed by SiGMA Depiro versus Mellieha Libertas.

Title holder Starlites were awarded a bye in the quarterfinal draws back in January which means they progressed automatically to the final four of the competition. While a week’s rest could be deemed valuable for coach Paul Ferrante’s side, the current men’s league runners-up will be banking on a fit squad with the return of Matthew Scerri after a long-term injury.

Meanwhile, Hibernians were only confirmed into the semifinals after a Malta Basketball Association (MBA) protest board decided that their quarterfinal result against Valletta Fighters would stand despite the Citizens’ protest after the game last week.

Valletta submitted an official protest following the ejection of coach Harry Savaya, but the MBA confirmed with the Times of Malta that the protest was denied and that after a hearing regarding the ejection which caused a momentary delay in the game after the team’s players were taken off the court by the club, Valletta received a two-game suspension for Savaya and a fine.

Mario Tabone’s Hibs went on to win their quarterfinal fixture 95-81 but they will be once again hoping for good performances from the likes of Mason Hix and Ivan Demcesen in the absence of import guard Nick Brennen who has been out for the past few games.

2023 reunion

In what appears to be a repeat fixture in the knockout after last season’s quarterfinal matchup between Depiro and Mellieha, the two will face each other again in similar circumstances as Libertas currently lead the league standings and Depiro are chasing a spot in this year’s playoffs. Back then, Mellieha took the spoils in the tie and eventually made their way to the final against Starlites.

Coming into the Final Four this season, Mellieha faced a struggling Luxol side who parted ways with import player Tariq Woody earlier last month and the Violets suffered a 46-point defeat at the hands of a strong Mellieha side which has been consistent enough to have only lost one game in the league campaign so far.

Ian Terribile’s clan have had import players Tedrick Wolfe and Kwame Thompson link up perfectly with Malta captain David Bugeja for a barrage of points which have, together with the free-flowing three-pointers from Vukasin Jandric, given the team considerably large leads that could cause problems to Ruben Baldacchino’s Depiro who are coming from a low-scoring victory against Athleta in the quarters.

The Mtarfa side were the more dominant throughout the game for a 21-point win while keeping quiet Athleta’s Malik Riddle in one of his lowest-scoring performances this season. While the fact that Dajuan Moorer was only available for close to nine minutes was an added boost for Depiro, the team looks to finally be settling in after a shaky start and regular fourth-quarter troubles which caused them to lose games at the death after having achieved double-digit leads.

With no like-for-like guard for centre Kameron Rooks on the Mellieha roster, this could spell Depiro’s path for success as the US-import player has been the team’s focal point throughout the season, racking up game-leading points and rebounds. While Rooks has not shot a single three-point attempt all season, he has been a force from under the hoop as possibly the tallest player in the league besides Hibs’ Demcesen.

BOV KNOCKOUT SEMIFINALS

PLAYING ON SUNDAY

Starlites JSD vs Hibernians – 14.00

SiGMA Depiro vs Mellieha Libertas – 16.00

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