Athleta stutter into last four, Floriana through
BUPA Luxol 69
Athleta A-Z Electronics 66
(13-17, 17-8, 19-18, 20-23)
Luxol, inspired by the shooting prowess of youngster Chris Cordina from the three-point line, upset their rivals who were missing Michael Naudi and Addison Bonnici.
There were periods during the game when Luxol’s lead was sufficient to earn them a place in the semi-finals but Athleta’s last-gasp efforts, especially Omar Said’s three-pointers, saw them through.
Despite their defeat, Athleta, the MBA Shield holders, secured second spot in Group 1 to advance to the last four.
Athleta enjoyed the better start to take a 17-4 lead. Gradually, Luxol came more into the picture and gained the upperhand to narrow the gap to 17-13 by the end of the first quarter.
Luxol continued where they left off in the latter stages of the first session as the second got underway, forging 23-19 ahead. Although Athleta recovered, they were unable to prevent Luxol changing ends 30-25 in front.
Athleta showed more determination after the interval but after closing the gap to a single basket, 39-37, Luxol came through this difficult moment to start the last 10 minutes 49-43 ahead.
After Athleta levelled at 51-all, Luxol staged a bold reaction to go on a 12-0 run and move 63-51 in front.
An intercepted pass by Jean Paul Bonnici and the consequent anti-sporting foul handed Athleta a route back into the game as they potted five points.
In the end, Luxol seemed content to protect their narrow lead even if this was not enough to hand them a place in the semi-finals.
Luxol: C.J. Cordina 26, M. Mercieca 4, J. Willoughby, A. Said, S. Shakilford 20, A. Micallef Trigona, N. Vaovic 17, T. Paris, E. Bonello, E. Caruana Montaldo, J.P. Bonnici 2, S. Capello.
Athleta: S. Pace, D. Bugeja 13, M. Todorovic 18, M. Giusti, L. Borg, O. Said 18, A. Bonnici, K. Baldacchino 9, S. Schembri 8.
Referees: G. Barbara, E. Mangani, A. Carbonaro.
Floriana Francesco Fenech 68
Loyola Tata Motors 55
(15-13, 17-10, 16-10, 20-22)
As expected, Floriana joined Siġġiewi in the semi-finals after beating Loyola who could not call on their new American signing as he was not registered in time.
Floriana were without pivot Derek Schembri.
After a slow start, Floriana scored seven consecutive points to take a 15-6 lead.
Loyola fought back to reduce the deficit to 15-13 by the end of the quarter.
A three-pointer by Billy Zammit enabled Loyola to take a one-point lead, 20-19, but Sassoun Saakian responded with a triple of his own to spark Floriana’s revival.
With Loyola losing their shooting touch, Floriana moved further ahead to change ends 32-23.
Floriana continued to dictate matters after the interval and fast breaks by Chris Sammut helped the Greens to extend their lead as they went into the last quarter with a handsome 15-point advantage, 48-33.
Hard as they tried, Loyola could not unsettle Floriana who administered their advantage till the final buzzer.
Floriana: G. Szokreny 4, D. Camilleri 4, C. Sammut 16, A. Mercieca 2, S. Sammut 5, C. Calleja 4, P. Thomas 24, M. Ciantar 2, S. Saakian 7.
Loyola: V. Nikovic, B. Zammit 17, C. Borg, C. Cassar 8, S. Borg, L. Azzopardi 3, S. Vella, A. Axiaq 9, J.P. Azzopardi 16, M. Grech, J. Ransley 2.
Referees: B. Vassallo, E. Mangani, S. Gouder.