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Starlites, Mellieħa Libertas braced for third-straight playoff finals series

Mellieha Libertas' Isaac Bonett tries to get past Starlites' Christian Hinckson. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The stage is set for an electrifying showdown in the BOV Men’s Division One playoff finals as reigning champions Starlites JSD lock horns with Mellieħa Libertas in a highly anticipated best-of-five series for the third consecutive season.

With both teams sweeping past their opponents in the semifinals, the local basketball community braces itself for a clash of titans.

Times of Malta Sport looks at the two sides ahead of the series…

Starlites pursue three-peat glory

Starlites’ journey to the finals has been nothing short of dominant. Reigning as the current title holders and seeking their third consecutive championship, Coach Paul Ferrante has orchestrated a season of triumph for his squad. Their path to the playoffs has been paved with success, clinching every major trophy so far this season, including the Super Cup, the John Tabone Shield, and the BOV Division One Knockout.

In the playoff semifinals against fourth-seed SiGMA Depiro, Starlites showcased their mettle by sweeping the series 2-0. Despite facing a formidable opponent, they emerged victorious with scores of 81-76 and 91-82 in two tightly contested encounters, ending Depiro’s impressive winning streak late in the season.

Led by the ever-present Alec Felice Pace – a household name for the Starlites fans – the Naxxar side will be hoping to continue combing the power of US import trio: Kurt James, Davonte Craven and Christian Hinckson with three-point threat Matt Attard and their crop of three-time Under-23 Championship winners.

While the return of Matthew Scerri has been a perfectly timed boost for the team, Starlites announced on Friday that Malta international Kurt Xuereb has also made his way back from his near-season-long injury sustained during the John Tabone Shield.

Mellieħa’s quest for redemption

Mellieħa, on the other hand, have also been a force to be reckoned with throughout the season. Despite finishing second in the regular season after a close battle for the top spot, they showcased their resilience in the semifinals against Athleta, sweeping the series 2-0.

Under the guidance of Coach Ian Terribile, the Northerners displayed their prowess on the court against third-seed Athleta, securing victories with scores of 85-69 and 69-68 in a hard-fought series.

After suffering sweeping defeat at the hands of Starlites in the past two seasons’ finals, Mellieħa is determined to rewrite history and claim the coveted title.

In turn, the team will be banking on their own US triad as Kwame Thompson, Tedrick Wolfe and Alexander Peacock have all been instrumental to Mellieħa’s performances so far. Orchestrating the team’s plays on court will be Malta captain David Bugeja and while the team’s athleticism is Mellieħa’s greatest asset, the return from injury of sharpshooter Vukasin Jandric just in time for their Game One victory against Athleta will certainly be an issue.

The series kicks off on Sunday (tip-off: 16.00).

BOV DIVISION ONE FINALS PROGRAMME

GAME 1 Starlites JSD vs Mellieħa Libertas – May 12 (16.00)

GAME 2 Mellieħa Libertas vs Starlites JSD – May 15 (20.45)

GAME 3 Starlites JSD vs Mellieħa Libertas – May 19 (16.00)

GAME 4 Mellieħa Libertas vs Starlites JSD – May 23 (20.15)

GAME 5 Starlites JSD vs Mellieħa Libertas – May 26 (16.00)

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