Alyssa Ashley Loyola 55
(16-11, 16-12, 18-16, 5-20)
The reigning champions live to fight another day. Loyola only needed one more victory, but this was denied them in the fourth game of the series. It didn’t look that way for three sessions of play, with Loyola in a confident mood, and the Violets having difficulty in all that they did. Then came the final period, and Luxol were a transformed side. On the other hand it was the Loyola players who were jittery, and the champions could make up the somewhat heavy deficit, and their last points, from the free throw line, gave them the spoils, and the chance to proceed to the fifth game of the series. As a matter of fact all the games, from the semi finals onwards, went to the limit.
The only addition to the two squads, from the three previous finals, was the addition of Kim Borg to the Loyola ranks.
Robin Murphy, celebrating the Player of the Month award, for April, hoisted Luxol to a 5-0 opening advantage. Loyola came quietly back into the game, and three times they were at a point in arrears, before they struck in a decisive manner. An 8-0 run, ending with Christina Grima points, after Sammy Jo Barbara, had opened up well for them, pushed them to their first advantage in the match. In the second session Loyola were still in the driving seat, starting with an 8-2 run, and a double figure lead. The violets began to recover, and Murphy began to urge them on with her points. Loyola rallied back, till the interval, and kept their adversaries at bay, on a 32-23 score, halfway through the encounter.
After the break Luxol started their haul back, and an 8-2 run had them within striking distance. Loyola halted their opponents’ march, and embarked on a solid 11-0 run of their own, catching Luxol on the hop on several occasions. The champions were faced with another daunting deficit, and they slowly crept back, also with a Sarah Pace triple. When they were uncomfortably near, Loyola ended the session in attack, to take their tally to a 50-39 score, at the start of the last period. Luxol pressed early, and this brought results, as Loyola began to lose balls, and an 11-2 run had the champions just a basket behind. Loyola reacted, to open up their lead some more. Luxol stuck down to their task, and after a Beverlee zammit triple had put the sides on level terms, it was left to late free throws, to seal the issue in favour of the Violets, with Loyola unable to make any impact in the last session of play.
It has now gone to the wire, with a fifth, and deciding match, on Sunday, when finally the champions will be known.
Loyola 6 E. Moore, 11 C. Grima, 2 J. Doughty, D. Hollier, K. Tonna, 9 A. Bonanno, A. Sciberras, F. Camilleri, 12 SJ Barbara, 15 D. Johnson
Luxol 6 S. Pace, 11 M. Sciortino, C. Medina, 2 B. Naudi, J. Busuttil Gaerty, 4 G. Zarb, P. Ellul, 26 R. Murphy, D. Muscat, A. Paul, 10 B. Zammit
Referees B. Vassallo, A. Carbonaro, C. Terribile