Siġġiewi, Depiro force third game
Basketball followers must wait until Saturday to know the two teams that will contest the league final after Siġġiewi and Depiro Mtarfa won the second leg of their respective semi-finals to force a decisive third game.
Athleta A-Z Electronics 64
(19-16, 20-18, 11-13, 19-17)
The improving Siġġiewi defied the odds last weekend as they beat reigning champions Athleta A-Z Electronics despite being without playmaker Louis Camilleri, abroad due to work commitments, and with Peter Shoults limping through the final two quarters after picking up an injury.
Athleta forward Omar Said was in good shooting form but his team struggled to show their best underneath the boards.
It was Athleta who led 8-4 by the fifth minute. Siġġiewi gradually found their rhythm to go 19-16 ahead at the end of the quarter.
Siġġiewi stretched their advantage to 24-18 only for Athleta to overturn the deficit. They led 25-24 with five minutes left for the interval but Siġġiewi battled on to change ends 39-34 ahead.
The third quarter was balanced with Siġġiewi just managing to stay in front, 50-47, as the last 10 minutes got underway.
The two teams remained on a par for much of the final quarter as, with only five minutes left, only one point separated them, Siġġiewi leading 57-56.
However, Siġġiewi surrendered possession on a couple of occasions and that allowed Athleta to take a two-point lead, 64-62, thanks to Said’s free-throws.
Marco Matijevic then converted two free-throws to level at 64-all. Then, an indecision by Michael Naudi allowed Karl Borg to intercept his pass as Matijevic’s basket and free-throw kept Siġġiewi’s final hopes alive.
Siġġiewi: R. Agius, P. Shoults 11, E. Xuereb 3, L. Grima, A. Borg 2, K. Borg 6, C. Meier 17, C. Kodomaris 2, M. Matijevic 28.
Athleta: M. Naudi 8, I. Buldakov, D. Bugeja 3, M. Todorovic 14, M. Giusti, O. Said 21, D. Schembri 6, A. Bonnici 10, K. Baldacchino, S. Schembri 2.
Referees: G. Barbara, E. Mangani, C. Terribile.
Depiro Mtarfa 69
Floriana Francesco Fenech 52
(11-15, 18-12, 19-17, 21-8)
Despite being handicapped by Greg Hamlin’s fifth foul with 12 minutes left, Depiro Mtarfa held their nerve to topple Floriana and level their semi-final series.
In a balanced start, Evan Fjeld’s baskets gave Floriana a 15-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After Floriana obtained the first basket of the second session, Depiro enjoyed a 12-0 scoring run to go 23-17 ahead. Floriana recovered to narrow the deficit to a single basket, 29-27, at the interval.
Although their shooting was generally wayward, Floriana levelled the score at 42-all when Depiro’s Hamlin committed his fifth foul. Yet, Nigel Sultana’s baskets bolstered Depiro as they began the final 10 minutes four points ahead, 48-44.
One expected Floriana to take advantage of Hamlin’s exit but with their playmaker Chris Sammut having an off day, it was Depiro who netted a series of three-pointers to pull clear of the Greens, 62-44.
Floriana tried to make a comeback but they lacked inspiration as the uncompromising Depiro held out to set up a decider.
Depiro: R. Vella 14, J.P. Schembri 1, N. Sultana 13, A. Aquilina 2, A. Portelli 2, A. Micallef 17, E. Lupo, M. Mallia, I. Tanti 6, G. Hamlin 14.
Floriana: J. Curmi, C. Sammut 5, I. Mercieca 3, S. Sammut, C. Calleja 6, A. Baldacchino 3, E. Fjeld 29, A. Sultana 4, M. Ciantar 2.
Referees: A. Carbonaro, C. Terribile, S. Gouder.
Saturday: MSV Life League semi-finals (game three), 14.45 Athleta vs Siġġiewi; 16.30 Floriana vs Depiro.