The Malta Independent 24 September 2018, Monday

Basketball, Men Div. I - Play Offs, Final 4: Hibs champions after a 28-year wait

Wednesday, 16 May 2018, 22:19 Last update: about 5 months ago

Gzira Athleta     63     Hibernians     75

(10-25, 23-11, 10-16, 20-23)

Hibs had won three league titles, way back in the late nineties, then they were disbanded. Years later they made a comeback, and it was in 2015 that they were promoted form the second division. Now they are not only league champions, but they managed to win four of the five honours of the season. They missed out on the first one, the Super Cup, against Luxol, but then won the rest. The MBA Shield, the Louis Borg Cup and the K.O. were all won against the same Luxol. The last, and biggest one, the League Chanpionship, was against Athleta, and the Paolites began with a defeat, but then followed up with three consecutive victories, to take the honour. In the last win they began in style, going on to a 14-1 advantage, as Roderick Vella and twice Alvaro Lizaur netted triples.

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Athleta had Peter Shoults with a trey, but Hibs extended their lead, as Lizaur sank a third triple, and Chad Patus made his hoops. In the next session Patus also made a brace of free throws, but Athleta made changes, and suddenly they were forcing the issue. A solid 13-0 run, mostly from young Nathan Xuereb, had them back in contention. Marco Matijevic came to the Paolites' rescue, as an Ivan Mitrovic triple tied the score for Athleta. Matijevic put in his points, and Hibs regained their lead, although it was a small one, at 36-33, at the interval.

After the break the Paolites opened up their advantage once more, after a 9-2 run. Athleta cut down on their deficit, but Hibs prevailed until the end of the session, making up a 7-2 run, as the Italian, Luca Tardito, went on court, and Hibs were 52-43 to the good. In the last quarter Athleta made their last efforts, but Hibs were keeping them at bay. Mitrovic netted a second trey for Athleta, but so did Patus, at the other end. Mitrovic gave brief hope to Athleta, putting in another trey, but when the latter tried to stop the clock, Hibs netetd their free throws, and kept out of reach till the final buzzer, to clinch the league title.

Celebrations, from the players and supporters followed, as the BOV Chief Officer, Peter Perotti, together with the MBA President, Paul Sultana, presented the medals to all the players, the MVP honour went to Chad Patus, and the Hibs skipper, Marco Matijevic, received the league trophy, making it four out of five honours for the season.

Hibs thus also emulated the women's team, who had also won the league title weeks before.

Athleta: M. Naudi 22, K. Liivamagi, P. Shoults 3, L. Stefanovic, F. Mifsud Bonnici 2, O. Said,  M. Gouder 4, N. Xuereb 7, S. Vincic, I. Mitrovic 9, J. Feiler 16     

Hibs: R. Vella 11, P. Attard, K. Sultana,  L. Farrugia, S. Attard, I. Bonett, L.Tardito 5, A. Axiaq 3, M. Matijevic 17, A. Lizaur 21, F. Mariani, C. Patus 18

Referees: G. Barbara, E. Mangani, N. Azzopardi

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