The Malta Independent 16 December 2019, Monday

Basketball, BOV League, Men 1 Div.: Champions open title defence campaign with a hard-earned victory

Willie Vassallo Sunday, 17 November 2019, 21:20 Last update: about 28 days ago
Photo: Domenic Aquilina
Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Depiro     89     Gzira Athleta     99

(20-19, 21-23, 18-30, 30-27)

Athleta have already won two honours out of three this season, and they were meeting the Depiro outfit for the first time. As it turned out Athleta did start with a victory, but it could have turned sour at the end, when they lost their two American players on fouls, in the last quarter, along with Shawn Pace, but they managed to hold on, then applied the killing touch, with their late free throws. Depiro lost their cool at the death, when their coach, Julian Naudi, was ejected, after two major fouls on dissent. They were led with a shooting display from their American, Quinn Cooper, with a steady tally of points, but it still wasn't enough,  as Depiro's four players on double digits were surpassed by Athleta's six players, even id marking was personal and tight.

The champions recovered their skipper, Peter Shoults, after his long injury, and after the match he was awarded the BOV Player of the year honour, for last season.

Athleta had a good enough start, with Nathan Xuereb following on his sterling display, the Sunday before, in the MBA Shield final, as he began with an early triple, in a 9-4 run. Depiro reacted with Cooper points, in a a 7-0 answer. He later added on two treys, with Athleta tying the score, with a Luca Stefanovic trey, only for a Daniel Farrugia free shot to take Depiro on another advantage. Athleta's American, Cannel Crossland, was already on three fouls.The second period was still very much balanced. Athleta's serbian player, Milos Novakovic's trey has Gooper nailing two more triples, at the other end, but Athleta came storming back, with a good 12-0 run, and a triple from American, Ian Thiesen. Depiro had Serbian, Marco Todorovic, making points in the paint, but Shawn Pace and Thiesen, again, nailed treys, for the score to be reversed, from the opening session, and it was Athleta 42-41 in front, at the interval.

After the break, Peter Shoults and Thiesen netted more triples, but Athleta's extended lead was cut down, with Depiro' s free throws, by Cooper. The champions answered back, as Shoults struck with another brace of triples, along with others, from Serbian, Milos Novakovic, and  Stefanovic. Athleta were on a double figure advantage, and their lead remained constant till the end of the session, as Thiesen put in another trey, for a 72-59 score. The last quarter was replete with points at either end. Xuereb sank another Athleta trey, and Depiro replied with Kurt Xuereb and Cooper points, the latter also with another trey. Athleta were hampered with the loss of Americans, Crossland and Thiesen, but Depiro couldn't make a telling break. Stefanovic made his thrid trey, keeping his side in command. Late in the match Depiro advanced to a seven point deficit, but when their coach, Naudi, was given a couple of major fouls, leading to his expulsion, the resulting free throws were converted, giving Athleta a better lead, as they finished just a point short of their century.

Depiro: M. Todorovic 18, Q. Cooper 42, M. Naudi 11, D. Farrugia 1, N. Grech, O. Said, K. Xuereb 17, M. Borg, M. Brincat, J. Attard, A. Chomo, A. Attard

Athleta: C. Crossland  13, S. Pace 6, B. Zammit, P. Shoults 14, L. Stefanovic 14, S. Galea, N. Xuereb 18,  M. Novakovic 16, I. Thiesen 17, E. Abela, R. Abela

Referees: B. Vassallo, Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Simic


After the match the BOV Players of the Year, for last season, were awarded. The Men 1 Div. honour fell to Athleta's skipper, Peter Shoults, the Women's was given to Hibernians' samantha Brincat, for the second season running, and the Men 2 Div went to Athleta's Matthew Gouder. 


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