The Malta Independent 22 September 2018, Saturday

Basketball, Men Div. I - Play Offs, Final 3: Hibs a game away from the league title

Sunday, 13 May 2018, 22:06 Last update: about 5 months ago

Hibernians     87     Gzira Athleta     79

(28-15, 19-22, 16-20, 24-22)

Hibs made a decisive step towards the league title, which they had last won in 1990. They were a confident lot for most of the time, as they opened up good advantages, which Athleta found hard to reduce. Although Jon Feiler was strong in the paint for them, the Paolites could rely on their triples, to maintain their lead. Still, Athleta came back, to nudge themselves in front, midway through the last session, but then they lost their skipper, Michael Naudi, on fouls, who then incurred a technical foul, and Hibs were on their way once more, to the final buzzer. Athleta fell behind one more time, and this time there was no way back, as the time was against them. Kudos to the Paolites, for hauling themselves back, from an opening game loss, and registering two back to back victories, which puts them in the driving seat, and the league title is now for them to lose. An exceptional match for Chad Patus guided the Paolites to their victory, and besides Patus the onus also fell on Alvaro Lizaur, Marco Matijevic, with the hard task of shadowing Feiler, and Roderick Vella, to obtain the necessary points.

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Feiler started Athleta off with a brace of hoops, with Hibs reacting with a 10-2 run, and Patus and Lizaur triples. Athleta went to within a point, but Hibs struck again, with an 11-2 run, as Lizaur sank another trey. Feiler put in more hoops for Athleta, but Patus made points in between, also with a second trey, for a healthy advantage. In the next period Vella sank a Hibs triple, closely followed by another, from Athleta's Ivan Mitrovic. Athleta went nearer, with an 11-2 run, but Patus was on hand, with another Hibs triple. Every time Athleta threatened to cut down on their deficit, there were Hibs, with more treys, from Patus and also Fabrizio Mariani, from the bench, although Nathan Xuereb also came off the bench, for Athleta, to nail a trey. At the interval the Paolites were still enjoying a 47-37 advantage.    

After the break Hibs kept their adversaries at bay, as Luke Farrugia and two more Vella triples helped to establish a solid lead. Towards the end of the session Athleta made inroads, with a 10-0 run, and another Xuereb triple. A Lizaur three-point play had Hibs still leading 63-57. In the last quarter Athleta made another attempt, and this time they were successful. A 7-2 run had them just behind their opponents. Hibs replied with Patus and Vella treys, but Athleta kept pushing, and Feiler shot them in front. Then came Naudi's fifth foul, and Athleta lost one of their two forward prongs. Hibs were agian in control, making up a 9-0 run, which left Athleta with a mountain to climb. The last patus triple sealed the match, even if Mitrovic sank a third trey soon after. Time was almost gone, and Lizaur closed down the game with his two last free throws.

The next match, a fourth one, is on for next Wednesday. Another Hibs victory will close down the series, but an Athleta win will open the final once more, forcing a fifth, and deciding rubber, the Sunday after.

Hibs: R. Vella 14, P. Attard, K. Sultana, L. Farrugia 6, S. Attard, I. Bonett, L.Tardito, A. Axiaq, M. Matijevic 13, A. Lizaur 18, F. Mariani 3, C. Patus 33

Athleta: M. Naudi 18, B. Zammit, K. Liivamagi, P. Shoults 4, L. Stefanovic, F. Mifsud Bonnici, O. Said 2, M. Gouder 4, N. Xuereb 11, S. Vincic, I. Mitrovic 9, J. Feiler 31   

Referees: T. Mantere, N. Azzopardi, I. Simic

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