The Malta Independent 26 September 2023, Tuesday
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Basketball, Men's St. James Hospital Super Cup: Hibs prevail over Gzira Athleta to retain title

Willie Vassallo Sunday, 6 October 2019, 22:09 Last update: about 5 years ago
Photo: Domenic Aquilina
Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Gzira Athleta     66     Hibernians     69

(9-21, 24-12, 16-15, 17-21)

It was a close call, but the Paolites, who started the game on a top note, had the better finish, despite a late Shawn Pace triple, which brought Athleta back into contention. Hibs paraded their two new foreign signings, American, Chandler Rowe, and the Swede, William Ahlberg, now in Hibs' colours, from Luxol. Athleta felt the absence of their dynamo skipper, Peter Shoults, who was injured in the Independence Cup final, and had to cry off this one.

The Paolites' strong opening was whittled down by the champions, who were level at the halfway stage. Athleta then enjoyed short advantages, after the interval, but had to chase their adversaries once again, in the final period, but just couldn't make up the leeway, and conceded defeat, even if they halved their deficit, eleven seconds from time. Hibs held out, to retain the honour, they won for the first-time last season, after missing out on their first final, the season before. Athleta, the side who won the Super Cup the most times, thirteen in all, couldn't increase their tally, to add on to their Independence Cup success, a fortnight before.

Hibs began in a bright manner, with Ahlberg and David Bugeja taking them to a 14-4 lead, both sinking treys. Athleta began to settle down, but Hibs still held sway, and a brace of late hoops gave them a better advantage. The second session had the Paolites increasing their lead slightly, but then Athleta's triples began to sink in, with Nathan Xuereb and the Serbian, Milos Novakovic, netting two each. Hibs replied with a trio of hoops, but a late surge, with a Matthew Gouder triple, had Athleta in an 8-0 run, which brought them on level terms by the interval, on a 33-33 score.

After the break Xuereb took Athleta ahead, for the first time, with his third trey, but Hibs were again in front, with Anton Axiaq and Rowe hoops. Pace's points, also with a trey, put Athleta in front. Hibs overturned the score, only for a very late Connel Crossland hoop, which the American taking the champions to another slight advantage, at 49-48. The last session started with both sides replying swiftly to each other's points, as Ahlberg netted his second triple, for the Paolites. Hibs sneaked in front once more, and Athleta were chasing them to the very end, without making any breakthrough. They were very close, but the Serbians, Ivan Demcesen and skipper, Marco Matijevic, always managed to keep the Paolites ahead. Late free shots extended Hibs' lead, and though Pace sank his second trey, to draw Athleta nearer, it wasn't enough, and Hibs held out till the end, to claim their first honour, this season.

After the match the MBA General Secretary, Joseph Muscat, presented Marco Matijevic with the winning trophy, as Hibs made it back to back super Cup victories.

Athleta: C. Crossland 10, S. Pace 10, B. Zammit, S. Vincic, L. Stefanovic, S. Galea, N. Xuereb 12, M. Gouder 12, M. Novakovic 12, I. Thiesen 10, E. Abela, R. Abela

Hibs: P. Attard, D. Bugeja 17, W. Ahlberg 16, L. Farrugia, M. Attard, I. Bonett 2, N. Vasovic 4, A. Axiaq 6, M. Matijevic 10, K. Sultana, I. Demcesen 6, C. Rowe 8

Referees: B. Vassallo, K. Dworniczak, I. Simic

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