The Malta Independent 27 June 2019, Thursday

Basketball, Women's Play Offs: Hibs prevail, to force fifth, and last, deciding rubber

Willie Vassallo Sunday, 28 April 2019, 20:57 Last update: about 3 months ago
Photo: James Galea
Photo: James Galea

Starlites GIG     57     Hibernians     63

(after overtime)    

(11-9, 8-8, 14-11, 18-23) - (6-12)

Starlites were on their way to be crowned champions, for the first time, with a three points margin, in front, but Sophie Abela extended the match into overtime, with her triple, as both sides failed in their last possessions. This fourth encounter was played under a continuous din of noise, from both sets of supporters, as they strove to push their side to victory. Both teams had their moments, but they always reacted positively to their weak moments, and the match had to be decided in extra time. It was the Paolites who grabbed an early advantage, which they held on grimly to, as Starlites sought to make up their deficit, but to no avail. The champions were marshalled well by Sam Brincat, with American, Amelia Simmons, coming to the good when it mattered. Starlites were served well by their Spaniard, Patricia Arguello, and Kirsty Galea, who will be leaving, to further her career in the United States. Starlites had skipper, Samantha Farrugia, back, with Welshwoman, Hayley Acreman, keeping her place, this time in lieu of Marilou Cutajar. Hibs welcomed back Hannah Al Tumi, still not fully fit, but able to play in patches.

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The match had a slow start, as in the previous three encounters. Maria Bonett was more in evidence, for Starlites, at first, with Simmons on a brace of hoops and Brincat with a trey, for the champions. Two back to back triples, from Galea, had Starlites on a small advantage. The second period saw the Paolites overturning the score, as they made up an 8-2 run. They then had to endure some Starlite pressure, as the latter side regained their advantage, and by the halftime buzzer they had again gone into a similar lead, as in the opening session, this time on a low, 19-17 score.

After the break the points began picking up once more, as personal fouls began to leave their mark. Leanne Duncan started with a Hibs triple, b ut Starlites came up with a good 10-2 run, to open up a better advantage. Hibs retaliated well, as skipper, Elena Cassar, boosted their score, also with a trey. They were within a point, but late efforts from Starlites, with a Christine Curmi triple, had her side on a better 33-28 score. In the last period Hibs had the better opening, with an 8-0 run, and another advantage. Galea and Arguello sank Starlite treys, to overturn the score. Emma Micallef went on court, for Hibs, and promptly sank a trey, but Arguello did the same, at the other end. Starlites' advantage was whittled down, as Brincat put in her points, for the Paolites, and a second triple. With time running out it was Abela, with her rare trey, to tie the score, and overtime it was.

Hibs, or more accurately, Brincat, opened up in style, with her five points, and a third triple. Starlites tried to make up the difference quickly, but Hibs held fast. Simmons put in her important buckets, and when Starlites tried to stop the clock, there was Duncan making her free throws, to give her opponents no occasion to recover their deficit.

The series now go the whole way, with the fifth, and deciding match, to be played next Sunday, giving the two sides ample time to recover, and prepare for the prestigious encounter.

Starlites: M. Zammit Cordina, K. Galea 14, M. Riolo, S. Farrugia, M. Bonett 9, G. Reynoso 8, C. Curmi 5, J. Grima 6, P. Arguello 15, H. Acreman, S. Davies, A. Lupo

Hibs: E. Micallef 3, E. Cassar 9, K. Calleja, S. Brincat 19, I. Agius, J. Abela, S. Abela 8, A. Simmons 17, N. Farrugia, H. Al Tumi, K. Caruana, L. Duncan 7   

Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, D. Torok, I. Simic

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