The Malta Independent 21 March 2019, Thursday

Basketball, Men's BOV National League: Athleta pushing for top positions

Willie Vassallo Saturday, 9 March 2019, 19:26 Last update: about 11 days ago
Photo: Domenic Aquilina
Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Hibernians     70     Gzira Athleta     94

(13-18, 19-29, 20-27, 18-20)

Hibs had beaten Athleta in their two previous meetings, in the Shield semi-final and the league, but this time Athleta were the victors, as they controlled their opponents, with full court pressing.  The Paolites were unable to co-ordinate their play, as Athleta eventually played all eight players at the disposition of coach, Sasa Dimitrijevic. They had Serbians, Alex Perunicic and Ivan Mitrovic unavailable, with the latter becoming a father to a baby girl, in the last few days. No matter the permutations, the champions couldn't find the right formula, to best their adversaries, and suffered their second league defeat, in nine games. Athleta are now on seven victories, in ten matches.

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It was the Paolites with the opening lead, but American, Vincent Pace, points, and a trey, overturned the score. Spaniard, Alvaro Lizaur, regained Hibs' advantage, with his triple, with the lead changing twice more, before Athleta managed a three-hoop spread to forge in front. In the second period Athleta could extend their advantage, with an early 10-2 run. Serbian, Ivan demcesen, went on court, for the champions, and his hoops nicked a little from their deficit. Athleta relied on triples, till the end of the session, as Peter Shoults, Nikola Vasovic and Pace all found their mark, leaving Hibs stranded, on a 32-47 adverse score, halfway through the encounter.

After the break there was still no let off for the champions, as Athleta ground out their superiority, with a heavy 15-2 run, as American, Connell Crossland, showing his finesse, and Vasovic, put in their triples, for a maximum advantage, at 62-32. Hibs recovered for some time, and briefly threatened, with a 12-0 reply, and Roderick Vella and Kizaur treys, but they didn't maintain their push, and Athleta again slowly crept forward, with Matthew Gouder also finding space to notch his triple, along with another from Pace, as Athleta established a solid 74-52 score. In the last quarter Athleta put the final touches on their impending victory, with an 8-2 run. It was Americans, Julio Guity and Pace, with the points for the victors, whilst Italian, Luca Tardito, and Canadian, Chad Cuschieri Patus, obtained Hibs' late hoops. The champions lost the occasion to jump alone, at the top of the standings, and now it is a three-way battle, for the top positions.

Hibs: R. Vella 7, P. Attard, K. Sultana, L. Farrugia, M. Formosa, I. Bonett, L. Tardito 16, A. Axiaq 10, M. Matijevic, A. Lizaur 13, I. Demcesen 9, C. Cuschieri Patus 15

Athleta: N. Vasovic 8, C. Crossland 23, P. Shoults 5, L. Stefanovic, N. Xuereb 2, M. Gouder 9, V. Pace 31, J. Guity 16

Referees: B. Vassallo, T. Mantere, K. Dworniczak

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