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Malta suffer close defeats in FIBA 3×3 Europe Cup qualifying day one

Malta's 3x3 national teams for the Europe Cup qualifiers. Photo: MBA

To play Luxembourg on Sunday after rain postponement

Malta’s men and women suffered close defeats on Saturday as they tried their luck in Prishtina, Kosovo for a place in this summer’s FIBA 3X3 Europe Cup. 

The men’s team, listed as the eighth seed in the competition, started their Pool A campaign with the toughest of clashes, against top seed Ireland. However, this did not stop the quartet of Matthew Scerri, Ian Felice Pace, Neil Cassar and Louie Farrugia from issuing a strong statement. 

Against Ireland, Scerri was in fact, the game’s top scorer with 11 points after four long-rangers and three freethrows. Despite this, it was a close Irish 18-17 victory by the final buzzer.

While Malta looked strongest in the opening minutes of their opening fixture, Ireland settled in and it was a case of foul trouble that evened things out. Luck was with the Irish in the final seconds of the encounter however as a missed Felice Pace effort with the sides level gave Matthew Spencer Treacy the chance for one last score in the last second. 

Malta fell to a 17-13 loss against Andorra in their second fixture.

Unlike their opener, Malta struggled to get things going and it was a Farrugia layup five minutes into the game that became Malta’s first point as Andorra shot ahead. The age gap between the two sides began to prove costly as the experienced Andorra players looked in control while Malta’s youngsters chased the deficit. 

Two straight Felice Pace two-pointers brought Malta closer to the surface with less than two minutes to go but two long rangers from Andorra settled things to hand Malta their second defeat of the day.

Women’s competition

In the women’s competition, Malta only had the opportunity to play their opening game, a 17-14 loss to tournament favourites Azerbaijan.

Looking to push past their previous high – a semifinal appearance in Cyprus – Malta sent a strong lineup with Steffi De Martino leading the pack which also featured Kristy Galea, Sophie Abela and Danika Galea.

On Saturday, Danika Galea fired first as it became a battle between the Malta youngster and Azerbaijan’s Mercedes Walker. 

Even though the Azeris entered the tournament as the top seed, eighth-seed Malta remained as close as ever throughout proceedings.

The two sides were level with just under three minutes to go. However, Azerbaijan rallied in the final moments for a three-point victory.

With the team set for their second game of the day, another tough contest against Luxembourg, a rain delay first postponed play for 30 minutes, before the organisers shifted the tournament’s final contests to Sunday morning.

Malta faces Luxembourg in both the men’s and women’s competition on Sunday with only a win on their minds, especially since only the top three from each Pool progress to the next round. 

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