The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

Basketball, BOV League Play Offs, Men Div. I: Athleta canter through, now need just another victory

Willie Vassallo Sunday, 28 April 2019, 20:22 Last update: about 5 months ago
Photos: Joseph Galea
Photos: Joseph Galea

Gzira Athleta     90      Hibernians     73

(17-10, 24-17, 24-16, 25-30)

The first final went into overtime, but this time Athleta had the measure of their adversaries, and posted a comfortable victory. They only need another positive result, to capture the league title, which they last won four years ago. The Paolites struggled to stay in the match, and began drifting behind, late in the opening period. They couldn't make any headway in the next two sessions of play, leaving Athleta with enough of an advantage to control the rest of the encounter. The champions couldn't cope with the strength of their opponents' attacks, and it was left to their Italian import, Luca Tardito, to grab half of their points tally, but it was in vain, as Athleta always held a winning margin of points, to bury the match before the last quarter to be played.  Hibs have to buck up their ideas, if they want the series to go beyond the third match. Athleta were strengthened with the return of their prodigal American, Kwame Thompson, who was introduced in the last quarter, and helped himself to a dozen points. The Paolites were missing the services of their skipper, Marco Matijevic.

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There was a balanced start to the game, with the lead changing hands four times, before Athleta made the first inroad, as the American, Connell crossland, sank a trey, and his compatriot, Julio Guity, was effective in the paint. The champions stayed in the match with Tardito's points. The second period had Athleta getting a firmer grip on the match, with an early 8-0 run, and a Nathan Xuereb triple. Hibs managed their best spell, as Tardito netted his first trey, as did the Spaniard, Alvaro Lizaur. In between there was American, Vincent Pace, also with a triple, as he proved to be quite a handful for the Paolite rearguard section. Athleta extended their advantage once more, and at the interval they were already on a comfortable 41-27 advantage.

After the break there was no visible change to the outcome of the match. Athleta still held an edge over their opponents. Hibs began falling further behind again, as Crossland and Pace kept on increasing their tally, the latter with his second triple. Hibs had Roderick Vella and Chad Cuschieri Patus with their treys, but Matthew Gouder was also on hand, to bolster Athleta's score, with his points, and a trey. After three sessions Hibs had fallen 43-65 behind. Tardito points took the Paolites marginally nearer, but then they lost their mentor, Mario Tabone, to dissent, with the game becoming a more open one, given the size of Athleta's advantage. There were some bench players coming on court, from both sides, notably Isaac Bonett. Pace grabbed his second triple, and for the champions there were Lizaur and Tardito with further triples, which made no impact on the score. Thompson put in his contribution for Athleta, who now fancy their chances better, with their two-game advantage, when the two sides meet again, for the third time, come next Wednesday, the start of May.

Athleta: N. Vasovic, C. Crossland 21, P. Shoults 2, L. Stefanovic, A. Perunicic, N. Xuereb 3, M. Gouder 9, K. Thompson 12, V. Pace 29,  J. Guity 13

Hibs: R. Vella 3, P. Attard, K. Sultana, L. Farrugia, M. Formosa, I. Bonett 3, L. Tardito 37, A. Axiaq 3, A. Lizaur 11, I. Demcesen 4, C. Cuschieri Patus 12

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

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