The Malta Independent 18 September 2019, Wednesday

Basketball, Women's Play Offs: Decisive last quarter has Starlites one step away from league title

Willie Vassallo Wednesday, 24 April 2019, 22:18 Last update: about 6 months ago

Hibernians     54     Starlites GIG     59

(12-8, 9-13, 17-17, 16-21)

It was tight all the way, until the last session, when Starlites broke away, to open a significant advantage, which saw them through, as the Paolites tried to claw themselves back, failing by a few points. There was still nothing to choose between the two sides, but it is Starlites who have the advantage, in games won. They need only another victory, to be crowned champions, for the first time, in their first ever Play Off finals. They bounced back from a second match defeat, to grab another lead. The series is still open, with Hibs needing a fourth match win, to go into a deciding, and last game rubber. The champions felt the absence of their tall player, Hannah Al Tumi, injured in the U/19 final, in midweek, whilst Julia Scerri is now away from the island, with Naomi Farrugia back in the side. There was also Britney Agius in lieu of Kaya Calleja. Starlites were without their skipper, Samantha Farrugia, with Welshwoman, Hayley Acreman, roped back in the side.

Despite a n Elena Cassar triple, for Hibs, it was Starlites leading in the opening flurry. Hibs turned the score around, with a 7-0 run, and a Sam Brincat trey. Spaniard, Patricia Arguello, netted a brace of Starlites buckets, but Hibs were still ahead. The second period had the Paolites hanging on to their advantage, as American, Amelia Simmons, evaded the shackles, from the opposing defence. Kirsty galea brought both sides level, with the champions going ahead once more, with a couple of hoops. Starlites replied likewise, and at the interval it was an even score, at 21-21.

After the break the lead changed hands three times, as Starlites managed to push themselves ahead. Brincat claimed a second trey, for Hibs, with Starlites edging away once more. The last stages of the session had the Paolites managing an 8-2 run, with an Emma Micallef triple, and a Simmons and-one play, which had both sides again on a par, at 38-38.  Hibs continued where they left off, in the previous period, as Cassar netted a second trey, but then their points dried up, as Starlites surged forward with a telling 11-0 run, with Arguello and Santo Domingan, Geocelis Reynoso, making their free throws. Hibs were back in contention, as Leanne Duncan and Cassar made triples. Starlites were still in front, and Maria Bonett came to the fore, for them, to open up her side's lead again. Brincat's free shots, from a triple try situation, saw the Paolites close once more, but only seconds remained, and Joey Gima's last free throws of the match sealed Starlites' victory, to push them again in front, in the series.

The fourth match is for next Sunday, and another Starlites win will crown them champions for the first time, adding to the two honours already won, in the first part of the season.

Hibs: E. Micallef 3, E. Cassar 9, B. Agius, S. Brincat 12, I. Agius, J. Abela  S. Abela 9, A. Simmons 14, N. Farrugia,  K. Caruana, L. Duncan 7  

Starlites: M. Zammit Cordina, K. Galea 9, M. Riolo 4, H. Acreman, M. Bonett 6, G. Reynoso 15, C. Curmi 4, J. Grima 8, P. Arguello 13, M. Cutajar, S. Davies, A. Lupo

Referees: B. Vassallo, K. Dworniczak, C. Xuereb

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