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Luxol keep hopes alive in women’s finals with stunning Depiro victory

Luxol's Tayler Bennett (centre) looks for an open teammate against Depiro. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

DEPIRO 45 (2)

CAFFE MOAK LUXOL 60 (1)

(10-19, 18-13, 9-18, 8-10)

It had been a finals series firmly nestled in Depiro’s hands before Sunday’s game but Caffe Moak Luxol made sure to avoid a sweep with what was their best showing of the playoffs so far to take a vital win at the Ta’ Qali Pavilion which keeps them in the running for the title.

With the game plan of both teams usually centred around the likes of Kristy Galea and Tayler Bennett’s scoring, both coaches opted to switch things up. Luxol’s Bennett put up 11 points on Sunday but was better focused on her role as playmaker to aid the game’s top-scorer Josephine Diaby who led with 16 points. The Luxol captain was followed by double-double finisher Sarah Fenech Pace who scored 14 and grabbed 13 rebounds.

At the other end, Sophie Abela led the Depiro scoring with 12 points, going close to a double-double with nine rebounds. Similarly, Jose Ann Johnson finished a point, and a rebound, shy of a double-double.

Diaby opened proceedings with a mid-range jumpshot before Anna Fenech Pace made one of two shots from the line to open the first lead of the game.

At the other end, Galea also went 50% on her first attempts from the freethrow line, with Abela driving up to make it an early one-point game on the Depiro’s next possession three minutes into play.

It became a quarter of freethrows when both Luxol and Depiro won the bonus as both sides began to struggle with their shots from open play. However, Depiro finally managed to break this streak of misses with a Julia Borg three-pointer before Bennett and Diaby both fired home from close range to give Luxol a nine-point lead. This became double digits before Borg hit from deep to beat the first-quarter buzzer.

Depiro’s Claire Ciantar hit the first points of the second quarter with Sarah Fenech Pace responding for the Violets. Unlike the opening quarter, shots fell into both baskets consistently and play became more continuous. Luxol held onto their lead but a Julia Xerri triple sent both sides for halftime separated by just four points at 32-28.

After the change of ends, Luxol hit first with an Anna Fenech Pace layup but Ciantar was again her side’s first scorer to respond. It was as close as ever between the sides as they pushed onto their offensive capabilities to keep the margin as little as three for most of the third quarter.

Luxol’s Anna Fenech Pace (right) pushes past Depiro defenders. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Depiro got into the bonus with 3.29 to go in the rubber but a pair of Mandi Mercieca triples pushed Luxol into a double-digit lead two seconds before the buzzer to give Santino Coppa’s clan breathing room ahead of the final quarter.

Borg restarted the scoring in the fourth quarter with a mid-range effort before Anna Fenech Pace grabbed her own miss to drive up for two points. Diaby made things harder for Adrian Baldacchino’s Depiro with a reverse layup, forcing the latter to call timeout.

The final moments were even tougher for the side leading the series as Luxol continued piling on the points. Under pressure, Depiro were made to suffer even to put up any shots as Luxol sealed the win at the final buzzer.

The pair meet again for Game Four on Thursday (tip-off: 18.15).

DEPIRO S. Abela 12, J. Xerri 2, C. Ciantar 4, J. Johnson 9, K. Galea 6, N. Agius, L. Sciberras 3, J. Borg 9.

CAFFE MOAK LUXOL T. Bennett 11, L. Fenech Pace, S. Fenech Pace 14, J. Diaby 16, A. Fenech Pace 11, M. Mercieca 8, S. Farrugia.

Referees G. Barbara, N. Azzopardi, M. De Flavia.

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