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Malta bow out of FIBA Europe Cup qualifiers after falling to favourites in knockout stages

Malta's 3x3 women's national team finished their commitments in the FIBA Europe Cup qualifiers in the semifinals.

Women’s national team secures semifinal finish, men end campaign in quarterfinals

Malta’s women’s 3×3 national team levelled their previous best finish in the FIBA 3×3 Europe Cup qualifiers as they bowed out after a loss to tournament favourites Azerbaijan in the semifinals on Sunday.

The 15-10 defeat came after a tough 21-15 loss to Luxembourg in the final Pool A fixture and a stunning 17-13 victory against Ireland later in the day.

Meanwhile, Malta’s men’s 3×3 national team ended their FIBA Europe Cup qualifiers campaign with a historic win against Luxembourg and defeat to Cyprus in the quarterfinals.

In a fixture originally listed for Saturday evening, Malta and Luxembourg’s women’s teams were both looking for their first win in the tournament. While it was Luxembourg’s opening game of the weekend, Malta had already lost to Azerbaijan on Saturday.

In spite of a brave showing, Malta had to settle for a second-straight defeat as Luxembourg proved to be the stronger side and leapfrogged the Maltese into a guaranteed two-pool finish.

In the quarterfinals, Malta were pitted against Pool B runners-up Ireland. 

The Irish kickstarted the scoring with an and-one before a Kristy Galea long-ranger to tie things up. This parity lasted just a few seconds as Ireland pushed back up to cause a four-point separation before Sophie Abela and Steffi De Martino bagged Malta’s next points.

De Martino was again up for the task from deep to level terms before Danika Galea switched leads with 4.19 to go. This was the spark Malta needed as they continued to surge ahead and progressed into the semifinals.

Against Azerbaijan, Malta faced a tough replay from day one. Sophie Abela hit from the line to open Malta’s scoring before De Martino hit from deep to tie the game after a quick Azeri start.

Azerbaijan surged forward with several long-distance efforts and they benefited from wasted opportunities from the Malta offence, but De Martino and Danika Galea combined to keep the game at just a three-point difference.

Nevertheless, Azerbaijan settled the game with another two points for a five-point victory and a ticket to the final.

Malta’s 3×3 men’s national team in Kosovo.

Men’s quarterfinal finish

In the men’s competition, Malta celebrated their first victory in the competition when they beat Luxembourg in the final Pool A game on Sunday.

In the morning fixture, also delayed after rain on Saturday, Luxembourg got things going with an immediate two-pointer before Matthew Scerri bagged Malta’s opener with a close-range layup.

Despite the early Luxembourg lead, Malta turned things around a minute and a half into proceedings. 

Similarly to the clash against Ireland, Malta began to play more consistently while Luxembourg played a more physical game. In turn, Malta held a four-point lead midway through the game.

Luxembourg looked lost as Malta continued to power through and took a 15-11 win which guaranteed them a place in the final round.

In the quarterfinals, a few hours later, Malta faced a much more technical side and were made to pay as the more experienced Cypriots progressed to the semifinals with a 21-11 finish.

Cyprus kickstarted proceedings with a layup before Ian Felice Pace hit one of two freethrows and Matthew Scerri levelled the game with a two-pointer.

Scores from Louie Farrugia and Neil Cassar created a Malta gap but Cyprus brought the game to parity five minutes in. 

With their newfound momentum after three straight two-balls, the Cypriots gained a sizeable lead, and eventually the win as Cyprus splashed in a condemning long-ranger to reach the scoring limit.

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