Floriana to meet Athleta in KO final
Athleta A to Z Electronics will meet Floriana Francesco Fenech in the final of the BOV Knock-Out after the duo edged out Pavi Depiro and holders BUPA Luxol in two balanced semi-finals
(12-12, 22-22, 23-15, 24-25)
Athleta had pivot Marco Todorovic and forward Michael Naudi making a return but the latter’s appearance did not last long as he suffered a recurrence of a back injury.
Matthew Zammit was again prominent underneath the boards.
Forward Adrian Micallef was the only notable absentee for Depiro.
Shaun Morgan, Depiro’s foreign player, found the going tougher than in the match against Siġġiewi as Athleta were better-organised in defence. Besides missing some easy baskets, Morgan also failed to make an impact from the free-throw line in crucial moments.
After a slow start, it was Depiro who enjoyed the first break to lead 11-5. Athleta fought back to level by the end of the opening quarter,12-12.
The match remained balanced. Depiro’s five-point gap in the closing stages of the second session was wiped out by playmaker Omar Said who nailed two three-pointers – he went on to score eight.
With the score tied at 34-34, Athleta seized the initiative to move 43-36 in front.
A time-out helped Depiro to recover but after reducing the gap to 45-42, they allowed Athleta to regain the upperhand and begin the last quarter 57-49 ahead.
Depiro were more aggressive at the start of the final session and a Morgan basket took them within a point of Athleta, 66-65, with less than five minutes left.
Their momentum was halted when Morgan fell and had to be substituted.
Athleta took full advantage to extend their lead thanks to another Said three-pointer.
Although Morgan rejoined the fray in the latter stages, Athleta were now in command as Depiro paid the price for their inaccurate shooting from the free-throw line.
Athleta: M. Naudi 2, M. Karsten, M. Gauci Montebello, M. Todorovic 20, M. Giusti, S. Haugel, O. Said 28, S. Pace 3, Z. Borg, K. Baldacchino 2, M. Zammit 13, S. Schembri 13.
Depiro: R. Vella 12, N. Sultana 12, K. Kun, A. Aquilina 12, A. Portelli, D. Agius, E. Lupo 6, M. Mallia, I. Tanti 2, S. Morgan 30.
Referees: E. Mangani, A. Carbonaro, C. Terribile.
(23-20, 19-17, 11-18, 19-21)
In a closely-fought encounter, Floriana battled past Luxol to end their hopes of retaining the Knock-Out title.
Luxol did show improvement from their last outings but were again let down by their poor percentage from the three-point line.
Youngsters Chris Cordina and Nikola Vasovic were below their best and a fifth foul by Stephen Shackleford with 13 minutes left did not help Luxol’s cause.
As in their league meeting with Luxol, Floriana were unable to exploit their opponents’ weaknesses.
Luxol enjoyed the better start to open a 12-4 lead. Floriana showed better ideas after a time-out to share the exchanges and narrow the gap to 23-20 by the end of the first quarter.
With Shackleford imposing himself in attack, Luxol increased their lead to 10 points, 32-22.
Bevan Scott Camilleri’s baskets boosted Floriana who closed the deficit, changing ends 42-37 behind.
Floriana hit a purple patch as they scored the first eight points after the interval to go 45-42 ahead.
A series of fouls by Shackleford complicated matters for Luxol. Another useless foul led to Shackleford’s exclusion with three minutes left before the end of the third quarter.
Yet, Floriana were unable to take maximum advantage, starting the last 10 minutes a only basket ahead, 55-53.
The final quarter developed into an interesting affair with both teams enjoying good spells and the lead alternating several times.
Luxol were a basket ahead, 68-66, with three minutes left but they tired out late on. Floriana capitalised to pot seven consecutive points and secure their place in the final.
Luxol: C.J. Cordina 4, M. Mercieca 12, E. Bonello, J. Willoughby, S. Shackleford 28, J.P. Schembri, N. Vasovic 14, T. Paris 2, J.P. Bonnici 12, A. Micallef Trigona, S. Capello.
Floriana: B. Scott Camilleri 17, D. Camilleri 9, C. Sammut 12, I. Mercieca, S. Sammut 2, C. Calleja, D. Schembri 10, P. Thomas 26, S. Saakian.
Referees: B. Vassallo, G. Barbara, S. Gouder.
(BOV League): Saturday, 4.30pm Luxol vs Athleta. Sunday, 1pm Floriana vs Siġġiewi, 2.45pm Depiro vs Loyola.