The Malta Independent 13 December 2019, Friday

Basketball, BOV National League - Men 1 Div.: Athleta on top, after third straight victory

Willie Vassallo Sunday, 1 December 2019, 20:54 Last update: about 11 days ago
Photos: James Galea
Photos: James Galea

Starlites GIG     69     Gzira Athleta     83

(19-12, 13-21, 16-23, 21-27)

Athleta's defence of the league title, won last season, goes on. They registered their third straight win, to top the standings, but they had to dig hard, to wave aside Starlites' strong challenge, which had them ahead till minutes after the interval. Athleta prevailed, to go in front, and then gradually increased their lead, and finish on a comfort zone of points. The only notable absentee of this encounter was Starlites' bench player, the Serbian, Ivan Kumric.

Starlites began on a bright note, to forge in front, after the champions' initial hoop, through Alec Felice Pace and American, Konor Kulas, who finished as the game's top scorer. Athleta were back, to tie the score, with Shawn pace and Nathan Xuereb treys, but Starlites regained their advantage, with a session ending 7-0 run, mostly from Kulas. The next period had Athleta overturning the score, with more triples, by Luca Stefanovic and Serbian, Milos Novakovic. They were still in front, after some more minutes, but Starlites had Kulas with a personal 7-0 run, but they couldn't manage to keep their lead till the interval, as Athleta had Stefanovic sinking a second trey, to hand his side a slim 33-32 advantage.

After the break Starlites grabbed another lead, but that was the last time they were in front. Athleta persisted, and two more Pace triples opened a better lead. This increased, as American, Ian Thiesen, and Stefanovic added more treys. Kulas managed to cut down on his side's deficit, with late points, but Starlites were still 48-56 behind. The last quarter saw an increase in points, at either end. Starlites had Felice Pace and Miguel Falzon to keep hoping, but the champions are made of stern stuff, and they warded off all attempts to decrease their advantage. Novakovic, Xuereb and American, Connel Crossland points took Athleta to a safe position, and late points sealed their win.

Starlites: A. Felice Pace 14, M. Azzopardi , R. Bonnici 4, I. Felice Pace 2, M. Fabri, M. Falzon 7, M. Scerri 3, R. Carabott,  K. Kulas 28, J. Marseille 7

Athleta: C. Crossland 14, S. Pace 9, B. Zammit , E. Sciberras , P. Shoults 4, L. Stefanovic 14, S. Galea, N. Xuereb 15, M. Novkovic 16, I. Thiesen 11, E. Abela, R. Abela

Referees: B. Vassallo, G. barbara, L. Camilleri

 

Hibernians     110     Luxol     77

(32-22, 29-19, 20-19, 29-17)

Hibs came a cropper in their second league match, but their second league victory wiped off any doubts about their challenge. A heavy win, over the Violets, restored the Paolites' confidence, leaving six players on double-digit personal scores, and this in spite of playing without their new entry, the Swede, William Ahlberg, still troubled by a troublesome wrist. Luxol had their second Serbian, Slavko Opojevlic, back in contention, but they couldn't ward off Hibs' exuberance, as they strolled past the century mark.

Keith Dimech started Luxol off, with his first trey, as he also finished as the match top scorer. The game seesawed at both ends, with American, Chandler Rowe, netting his first triple, and JP Schembri also nailing a trey, for the Violets. David Bugeja points had Hibs ahead, with Luxol having to trail, despite more Dimech buckets. Isaac Bonett netted a further Hibs trey, as they took their advantage to double figures. In the second session, it was Luxol with tripes, with another brace by Schembri and another from Francesco Mifsud Bonnici. The Paolites were still a handful of points ahead, and then a solid 18-2 run propelled them to a heavy advantage., as Nick Vasovic sank two more treys. Rowe also netted a second triple, with Dimech replying for Luxol, but Hibs were on a sound 61-41 lead, at the interval.

After the break, Luxol tried hard to make up some leeway, and Schembri and Serbian, Vukasin Jandric, made more treys, but the Paolites didn't relinquish their lead. They had Kieron Caruana coming on court, to put in a trey, and Anton Axiaq points had them 81-60 to the good. In the last session, Luxol couldn't keep up with the Paolites' tempo, as they fell further behind. Hibs' triples continued to pour in, with Caruana adding two more, and others going in through Paul Attard, Rowe and also Matthew Attard. The century was obtained with Bonett's brace of free shots, and the points just kept on coming. Luxol were down and had to suffer their second league defeat in two matches.

Hibs: P. Attard 5, D. Bugeja 15, K. Caruana 11, L. Farrugia, I. Bonett 10, N. Vasovic 16, A. Axiaq 9, M. Matijevic 4, M. Attard  3, C. Rowe 17, I. Demcesen 20   

Luxol: J. Cefai, V. Jandric 20, P. Engelbert 2, E. Caruana Montaldo, F. Mifsud Bonnici 6, JP Schembri 14, K. Dimech 29, I. Pace 2, S. Opojevlic, K. Gauci, L. Trapani,  S. Cappello 4   

Referees: I. Simic, M. Hraisha, S. Jafilica

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