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Watch: Starlites conquer all to seal third-straight Division One title

Starlites players celebrate with the BOV Men's Division One trophy. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Malta champions win all four local trophies this season



(21-23, 33-31, 25-23, 21-12)

Starlites JSD made history with a third successive sweep over Mellieha Libertas in the BOV Men’s Division One finals to end the season with the league title on Sunday at the Ta’ Qali Pavilion.

It was a final for the ages as Mellieha pushed to stay in the tie after two earlier defeats but it was not to be as Paul Ferrante and his clan lifted their fourth trophy of the season after another later surge.

It was a game fought to the death, with two players fouled out on either side, but a spectacle which saw Starlites captain Alec Felice Pace counter Mellieha’s Tedrick Wolfe’s 28 game-high scoring with 24 points before heading to the bench after his fifth foul. Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) Davonte Craven followed with 21 points, as Kurt James and Christian Hinckson rounded the double-digit scoring for the champions with double-doubles – James hit 18 points and 17 rebounds while compatriot Hinckson finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

At the other end, Wolfe cemented his place as Mellieha’s top scorer this season, with all bar two starters amassing double digits.

Starlites’ Hickson opened proceedings with one of two freethrows before Felice Pace fired in a pair of three-pointers in between a mid-range jumpshot from Mellieha’s David Bugeja.

It was a physical first quarter between the two sides as points came mostly from players charging through the paint before both Starlites and Mellieha got into the bonus midway through the rubber.

However, when a Bugeja layup brought Mellieha to within a point of Starlites – who had been the more dominant side so far – Vukasin Jandric hit a buzzer-beating triple to put the Northerners ahead for the first time in the encounter.

Mellieha’s Corrado Mercurio put the first points on the board in the second quarter after making a steal and speeding up the court for a fastbreak finish. Starlites responded with a James and-one, ahead of a quick Matt Attard three-ball to level terms.

From then on, it looked as close as ever with both sides trading threes in the latter part of the rubber but after Wolfe and Alexander Peacock had cancelled out Craven’s show of athleticism, a Felice Pace three-ball in the final seconds sent the teams for halftime all square at 54-54.

Starlites forward Kurt James (left) drives past Mellieha’s Tedrick Wolfe. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

A Wolfe dunk started the second half before a Peacock layup to counter Craven’s effort at the other end. However, Attard fired in from deep to hand the lead back to Starlites.

Mellieha went back ahead through Jandric and Wolfe’s efforts and it looked like a tough final few minutes of the third quarter for Starlites with Ian Terribile’s clan in the bonus. However, once foul trouble got the better of the latter as well, Starlites made the most out of their opportunity to level terms and eventually retake a two-point lead in the final seconds after two consecutive James baskets.

The final quarter was expected to be a titanic battle between the two sides for different goals. And it surely lived up to its billing as one team leapfrogged the other for most of the rubber but with five minutes to go, Starlites took control while Mellieha struggled with foul trouble to hand their opponents the bonus and a double-digit advantage. To make matters worse, an awkward fall ended Mercurio’s game with 4.36 to go.

Starlites captain Felice Pace got his marching orders a few seconds later but Jandric’s fifth foul meant Mellieha lost yet another player on the court with just over a minute to go. Wolfe was made to sit next as Starlites’ Kurt Xuereb matched the number of fouled-out players on each side. But none of that mattered as Starlites secured their third-straight title at the final buzzer.

STARLITES JSD A. Felice Pace 24, C. Hinckson 12, M. Attard 8, I. Felice Pace 4, K. James 18, M. Scerri 6, D. Craven 21, L. Farrugia K. Xuereb 7.

MELLIEHA LIBERTAS D. Bugeja 15, R. Bonnici 1, V. Jandric 13, A. Peacock 14, K. Thompson 3, T. Wolfe 28, R. Carabott 4, C. Mercurio 11.

Referees B. Vassallo, I. Simic, Z. Dobrosaviljevic.

BOV Men’s Division 1 Finals MVP: Davonte Craven (Starlites JSD).

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