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Starlites JSD ease past Mellieħa Libertas in men’s league finals to close in on title

Starlites JSD cruised past Mellieħa Libertas to inch closer to title. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

MELLIEĦA LIBERTAS    70 (0)

STARLITES JSD              92 (2)

(21-26, 13-24, 16-26, 20-16)

Mellieħa Libertas player Vukasin Jandric returned after missing Game One but the addition of the Serbian sharpshooter was not enough as Starlites JSD made sure to avoid the need for any last-gasp comebacks to dominate Game Two on Wednesday.

For Starlites it was a crucial win ahead of what could be the deciding fixture in the BOV Division One playoff finals on Sunday.

Starlites player Kurt James was his team’s top scorer, scoring 17 points with Christian Hinckson followed with 16 points and was a rebound short of a double-double.

At the other end, Tedrick Wolfe was Mellieħa’s star player with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Corrado Mercurio hit 11 and Kwame Thompson added 10 as the players in double figures.

James opened proceedings with a quick dunk before Wolfe hit first for Mellieħa. Alexander Peacock shifted the lead, but Hinckson levelled immediately.

Mellieħa looked like they were out for revenge and through their offensive powerhouse Wolfe, who hit ten straight points in between a Mercurio three-pointer, the Northerners opened an eight-point lead midway through the first quarter. Peacock fired two shots from the line for Mellieha’s first double-digit lead.

Starlites fought back to get back to within two points with Hinckson free-throws and a three-ball each for Felice Pace brothers Ian and Alec before Mellieħa coach Ian Terribile called timeout.

With the last two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Ian Felice Pace switched leads with two scores in between a James drive to hand Starlites a five-point advantage after the first buzzer.

Thompson restarted the scoring in the second quarter with a layup.

Craven replied with a floater but Mercurio hit again from deep to make it a two-point game.

It looked like it would be another close encounter but Starlites’ Craven, Scerri and Hinckson all added points on the board to make it a nine-point gap with four minutes to go until halftime.

Less than a minute later, a Matt Attard triple pushed Starlites’ lead up to double-digits as Paul Ferrante’s clan looked in control. In fact, they pushed up their lead to 16 by the halftime buzzer.

Starlites’ lead overcame the 20-point mark as soon as a minute into the restart after the change of ends.

Ian Felice Pace hit a quick triple before James hit another three-pointer for a 22-point margin. Wolfe struck first for Mellieħa once again with a layup, but Scerri hit from deep yet again as Starlites just could not miss from behind the arc.

This dominance continued and things got harder for Mellieħa when Starlites got into the bonus, and despite their efforts, the Northerners left for the bench down by 26 ahead of the final quarter.

Thompson hit first in the final rubber in a run of six points to make it a 20-point difference.

However, Starlites replied through a Craven layup and the title holders then maintained their lead until the final buzzer.

MELLIEĦA LIBERTAS T. Wolfe 19, D. Bugeja 6, R. Bonnici, A. Peacock 7, C. Mercurio 11, V. Jandric 8, R. Carabott 6, K. Thompson 10, N. Pace 3.

STARLITES JSD A. Felice Pace 9, C. Hinckson 16, M. Attard 5, K. Xuereb 4, K. James 17, S. Aquilina, I. Felice Pace 15, L. Riolo, M. Scerri 11, D. Craven 13, L. Farrugia 2, N. Sultana.

Referees N. Rincon, G. Barbara, F. Fabok.

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