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Watch: Coppa celebrates ‘fantastic success’ after ending farewell tour with women’s double

Caffe Moak Luxol won the Women's League on Sunday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

At the end of the 2023-24 MAPFRE MSV Life Women’s League regular season, not many would have placed their bets on Caffe Moak Luxol winning the title after the Violets finished third in the standings below Depiro and Starlites JSD. However, it was the Pembroke-based side who were crowned champions on the final day of the season after a Game Five victory, and coach Santino Coppa believes it was a fantastic success.

“When I am losing 2-0, I keep on believing and I transmit this to my players – my two experienced players Mandi (Mercieca) and Jo (Diaby) helped me a lot to transmit this thing to the young players,” Coppa told the Times of Malta.

“This is a fantastic success because it was against a strong, and expensive team.

“After 2-0, nobody believed in this team… nobody. But I always transmit positivity and (the players) always give everything for me.”

While last season’s champions Starlites had held control over the top spot for the majority of the season, Depiro leveraged momentum coming off their Knock Out triumph in March against John Tabone Shield winners Luxol to surge ahead in the last few game-days of the regular season, securing a direct spot in the playoff finals.

A sweep against Starlites in the semifinals meant the Knockout finalists would meet again to close off the season with what would become a fairytale ending for Coppa and his team.

Depiro, arguably the team that had invested the most over the summer for this campaign, looked most likely to lift the trophy again after two games. However, Luxol avoided the sweep with basketball they had not shown in the previous fixtures, shocking the Mtarfa side into defeat. But when the series reached parity on Game 4, the pressure was completely on Depiro as it seemed Luxol had a point to prove.

Fenech Pace wins Finals MVP award

Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) Anna Fenech Pace believes the team deserved the victory.

“It’s so crazy! We really worked hard and we really deserve it as a team,” Fenech Pace said.

“We’ve been through everything together and so it’s just amazing. We came back – we lost two games and won three so everyone’s just over the moon.”

Asked about how it felt for her to be on the court in such an intense series and be awarded MVP, the Malta youth international was lost for words.

“(It was) so stressful – It was so nerve-wracking and everything, but I feel like with the teammates I have, everyone is always encouraging each other and it’s just such a great team to be part of that you enjoy playing these games,” she admitted.

“I’m shocked (about the MVP award). I don’t really know what to say – Thank you.”

‘Thank you, Malta’

Having been around Maltese basketball since the beginning of the millennium, Italian coach Coppa holds a phenomenal standing among the community due to him first being women’s National Team coach for many years, before joining Luxol as their women’s head coach, a role he has occupied until this season.

However, it seems this run will come to an end this summer as Coppa is set to return to Italy.

“For me, this success is very important because it’s the last one here in Malta as I will be going back to Italy,” he confirmed with the Times of Malta.

Anna Fenech Pace won the Finals MVP award. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

“These last three seasons with Luxol, Edgar (Caruana Montaldo) the president, Eric Fenech Pace have helped me a lot because it is a very difficult job so I say thank you to them and Roderick (Vella) who is the youth coach because he prepared and helped me in my job for this success.

“I say thank you to the Association because I know everybody, and I cherish my experiences in Malta. I began in 2002 with the national team and I continued with Luxol. This is a success that for me is fantastic because it was with two veteran players, one American, and the others who are young.

“The American (Tayler Bennett) improved day after day because she is a good person and she stayed with me, listened to me and worked with me in the morning to improve.

The Italian also showed appreciation for the community as “everybody is my friend and I’m friends with the island and with its people”.

Discussing his next steps, Coppa said he had received two offers from Italy but had made a gentleman’s agreement with the Violets to stay on for this past season. However, he explained that his time as a basketball coach in Malta was over.

“Next for me is that I go back home. In this season, I had another two offers from Italy’s First Division, but I was the coach of Luxol. I didn’t have a contract – only a handshake with the president and I finished my job. Now I don’t know. I have other options but that’s not important – the important thing is that after finishing my experience, I am happy, and I am satisfied.

“Tomorrow is another day but today, I want to stay here and enjoy it. This is a fantastic island and I’ll come to Malta always for my holiday. But for basketball, that’s finished.”

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