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Malta basketball national teams settle for silver at Championship for Small Countries

The Malta Basketball national teams were forced to settle for the silver medal after losing the final in their respective FIBA European Championship for Small Countries on Sunday.

Despite the defeats both teams put on a gritty display and no doubt the performances in this tournament bode well for the future.

In Kosovo, the women’s selection met Norway in the final of the FIBA Women’s European Championship for Small Countries 2024.

As was to be expected, Norway, the pre-tournament favourites, proved the strongest opponents Malta faced in this tournament but the final was not a foregone conclusion.

Our girls held their own but Norway’s reaction in the third quarter proved decisive as they eventually won 61-54.

Malta showed their bold intentions from the outset, winning the quarter, 19-17. With the experienced Josephina Diaby leading the way, Malta maintained their momentum to extend their advantage by half-time to five points – 29-24.

Norway came back strongly, winning the third quarter 22-10 to go in for the final session 46-39 ahead. Malta had a good start to the final session, but Norway recovered with a series of three-pointers to establish an 11-point cushion – 43-54 – with just under five minutes remaining.

Danika Galea’s dominant presence underneath the boards lifted Malta as she netted consecutive baskets, 52-59, with less than a minute left, but Norway kept their composure to seal a 61-54 victory.

Under the guidance of coach Charles Bonnici, Malta had Amber Melgoza hitting 16 points and 12 rebounds. Steffi De Martino weighed in with 12 points.

Aurora Sorbye topped the scoring for the winners with 14 points.

In the men’s tournament, Malta’s never-say-die performance was not enough as hosts Andorra came through an exciting finale to win the gold medal, 84-79, in La Vella.

As expected, the final was a very close encounter with the two teams neck-and-neck for most of the game.

After Andorra took the first session by a single point, 20-19, Malta, inspired by David Bugeja, won the second 20-15 to build a four-point lead going into half-time.

The third was also a tight affair with Andorra levelling at 53-53 with less than a minute but a Michael Sjoberg three-pointer put Malta back in front just before the end of the session.

The lead kept changing hands in the initial stages of the last quarter but two three-pointers sent Andorra eight points clear, 64-56. Three baskets by the in-form Bugeja and a Joshua Tomasi three-pointer kept Malta in contention.

An exciting finale ensured with Andorra three points ahead going into the final minute only for Deguara’s basket to bring them within one point, 76-75. It was Andorra who had the final say with a late surge to win 84-79.

Bugela was Malta’s most efficient player with 22 points and two assists while Sjoberg had most rebounds – 10.

Bruno Bartolome led the way for the hosts, scoring 24 points.

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