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Starlites take over top spot after Hibernians thriller

Hibernians' Keith Charleston (left) and Starlites' Christian Hinckson jump for the tip-off. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Depiro leapfrog Hibernians into playoffs after beating Luxol

Starlites JSD took over the BOV Men’s Division One’s top spot on Sunday with a dramatic two-point victory over Hibernians at the Ta’ Qali Pavilion.

With Mellieha out of action this weekend, the onus was on the Malta champions to try and pip their rivals into a higher placing for the playoffs with one round to go in the regular season.

On the other hand, Hibs desperately needed points to safeguard their fourth spot but lost their much-desired position to SiGMA Depiro who took over with a strong victory against Luxol. This win means Ruben Baldacchino’s clan are now confirmed for this year’s playoffs as the fourth and final seed.

Meanwhile, third-place Athleta powered past a depleted Valletta Fighters side for an emphatic win to stay put ahead of a return to the postseason.



(24-24, 17-23, 32-18, 13-19)

Despite the defeat, Nick Brennen led the charge as the game’s top scorer with 27 points, grabbing 10 rebounds for a double-double. The Paolites guard hit first with a shot-clock-beating three-pointer. Alec Felice Pace responded for Starlites with a pair of freethrows on the next play to get things going.

The pair became each other’s offensive threats before a Matthew Attard Hibernians triple and two straight Starlites scores from Kurt James kept them at par midway through the first quarter.

Energetic play from Ian Felice Pace on both ends of the court shifted Starlites into the lead but a triple and a completed and-one play from Hibs’ Luke Farrugia levelled terms yet again with three minutes to go in the rubber.

Starlites guard Matt Attard opened the second quarter with a three-ball before an Ivan Demcesen hook shot immediately brought the game to a point’s difference.

With 5.50 to go in the first half, Hibs retook the lead with a Farrugia corner-three but there was nothing to separate them as Starlites’ Attard levelled again with a long-distance effort himself.

With both sides in the bonus for the final minutes, Mario Tabone’s side took over the game’s offence for a six-point lead at the break.

After the change of ends, Christian Hinckson, who finished with a 17 point-13 rebound double-double on the day, started the second half scoring with a drive through contact in the paint before an Attard triple and an Alec Felice Pace layup gave them a temporary lead ahead of a Demcesen effort for Hibs’ first third-quarter basket.

Solid defence was on the cards for the title holders and they used this to take a 10-point lead. Hibs attempted to fight back but could only reduce the margin to eight by the third buzzer.

Keith Charleston hit first in a crucial fourth quarter. Brennen grabbed the next two baskets with Starlites’ lead cut down to two points.

Foul trouble was an issue for Paul Ferrante’s clan with Hibs in the bonus for the final half of the rubber.

With 1.13 to go in the game, a Demcesen layup put the Paolites a point ahead while Starlites looked in trouble.

However, all hell broke loose in the final 16 seconds, when Attard gave Hibs the lead with a triple to cancel out a late pair of scores from the line by Starlites’ James. Albeit this, Alec Felice Pace was his side’s saviour with a long-distance winner before another James freethrow as the Naxxar side took a close victory over the Paolites. 

STARLITES JSD A. Felice Pace 17, C. Hinckson 17, M. Attard 21, I. Felice Pace 5, K. James 11, M. Fabri, M. Scerri, D. Craven 14, L. Farrugia 1.

HIBERNIANS K. Charleston 16, L. Farrugia 9, A. Axiaq, M. Attard 10, N. Brennen 27, P. Attard 5, I. Demcesen 17.

Referees G. Barbara, N. Azzopardi, N. Rincon.

Hibernians’ Anton Axiaq (centre) drives into the paint against Starlites JSD. Photo: Jonathan Borg



(18-19, 16-9, 32-17, 21-10)

In the day’s late game, Nenad Bukva opened proceedings for Depiro before Kameron Rooks put up the next basket more than two minutes later.

JP Schembri and Nathan Xuereb hit Luxol’s openers as the game eventually began to flow. Xuereb eventually put the Violets up with a three-pointer but Depiro’s Miguel Brincat emulated this at the other end to make it a tie game.

Both sides began to echo each other as the quarter progressed but it was Luxol who edged Depiro to a one-point lead at the first buzzer.

Luxol forward Marko Matijevic restarted the scoring in the second quarter before Andrew Aquilina replied for Depiro. Once more, points came at a premium until both teams settled in, with defence playing the greater part of proceedings. But the final minutes of the half inspired a new-found energy in Depiro’s players who took a 34-28 lead at the break.

Nikola Jovanovic restarted play for the second half with a three-pointer but just like the previous quarter, Aquilina provided Depiro’s response with a fastbreak layup.

With players more accurate in their efforts after the change of ends, play became a better sight to watch with both sides battling over their minimal margin. However, this gap became a 10-point lead for Depiro after two Sean Galea triples.

At the other end, Matijevic was Luxol’s focal point, constantly pitted against Rooks inside the Depiro paint as the Violets’ top point-getter of the day.

The fourth quarter had a strong beginning with Depiro’s Brincat rising for an acrobatic layup to start the scoring, before Matijevic was again at the forefront of Luxol’s scoring with a hook shot as Duncan Fenech’s side attempted to overcome a deficit that had gone up to 22 with three minutes gone in the rubber.

Depiro’s experience came into play as their lead grew into the 30-point mark in the final three minutes and they held on to take their sixth consecutive win.

SIGMA DEPIRO A. Aquilina 10, K. Rooks 21, M. Brincat 9, C. Cornelius 10, N. Bukva 2, S. Galea 8, L. Trapani, N. Bozovic 7, N. Grech 3, A. Hollins 14, M. Mallia, M. Debattista.

LUXOL N. Jovanovic 3, A. Azzopardi 9, JP. Schembri 5, N. Xuereb 14, M. Matijevic 21, M. Sciberras, S. Pace, I. Azzopardi 3, S. Cappello.

Referees B. Vassallo, N. Azzopardi, F. Ciurariu.



(2-25, 3-31, 14-25, 13-19)

Missing the injured quartet of Neil Cassar, Ulhas Satyanarayan, Andy Attard, and Desean Mattox, Valletta introduced no less than three new players to their roster with Daniel Massa, Francesco Orifici and Delano Covarrcubis making their debut for the league minnows on Sunday. The absences were a setback too tough for the Citizens as Athleta cruised past with a 65-point victory.

Athleta forward Matthew Gouder started the scoring with Naz Buhagiar getting the next score from a Francesco Mifsud Bonnici steal. Centre Matthew Farrugia hit first for Valletta with a mid-range effort.

It was a strong start from Christos Kousidis’ side, opening a double-digit advantage and eventually holding a 23-point lead at the end of the first quarter. On the other hand, Harry Savaya’s Citizens looked rattled, losing possession to intelligent interceptions from Juan Cefai on several occasions.

The floodgates reopened with the start of the second quarter as Malik Riddle missed one of two free throws but made amends with a dunk to get the scoring going again. Meanwhile, the Citizens were still on that first Farrugia basket in what became a 40-point game midway through the rubber.

Valletta finally hit back with a Massa freethrow and a Covarrcubis mid-range jumper but Piotr Stelmach cancelled the points with a three-ball. This Athleta dominance continued before the teams returned to their dressing rooms for halftime 51 points apart.

Athleta’s Gouder hit four straight points to start the second half before Farrugia drained from mid-range to aid Valletta’s consolation. Covarrcubis and Sassoun Saakian both hit from three-point range but Athleta were in no mood for easing up, leading by 61 ahead of the final rubber.

The fourth quarter was time for Athleta’s youths to make their mark on the game as Kousidis rotated his five, leaving Theodoros Chatzimoysis to lead a younger pack of players on court. The Maroons continued to push, overcoming the 100-point mark and took the victory at the final buzzer.

VALLETTA FIGHTERS N. Da silva 4, S. Saakian 5, M. Farrugia 4, J. Lisondra 10, D. Massa 4, F. Orifici, D. Covarrcubis 9.

ATHLETA M. Riddle 15, F. Mifsud Bonnici 2, N. Buhagiar 7, M. Gouder 10, P. Stelmach 13, K. Fabri 7, D. Moorer 15, L. Borg 6, E. Abela 6, T. Chatzimoysis 7, A. Garzia 2, J. Cefai 11.

Referees B. Vassallo, G. Barbara, G. Russo.


Starlites JSD 31; Mellieha Libertas* 30; Athleta 29; SiGMA Depiro 26; Hibernians 25; Luxol 22; Valletta Fighters 16.

*Mellieha Libertas did not feature in last weekend’s games.

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