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Athleta, Luxol land first honour

Gżira Athleta 59
Floriana MCP Car Parks 45
(34-24, 25-21)

The 2016/17 basketball campaign got under way with the customary pre-season Independence Cup tournament, for men and women, where each game lasts 30 minutes and a marathon 23 games are played over three days.

Two positive five-minute spells in each half were the turning points in the men’s final between Gżira Athleta and Floriana MCP Car Parks, two sides that had already faced each other in the group stage.

Only three points, 58-55 in Gżira’s favour, separated the two sides in the first rubber on the first day of the tournament.

Floriana, who had Nick Vasovic missing but included new signing Shawn Pace, were better off the mark in Wednesday’s final.

After potting the first six points of the game, they went on to hold a 16-12 lead midway through the half.

Things changed in the next five minutes as new signing David Camilleri, together with Michael Naudi and Roderick Vella, found their shooting touch as Athleta embarked on an 18-2 run.

After changing ends 34-24 ahead, Athleta continued to show more flair, aided also by their superiority under the boards, for another positive run (14-2) and a sizeable lead of 48-26.

Floriana did try to claw their way back into the game as their shooting precision improved in the last part of the match but Athleta administered their lead to claim the honour.

At the end of the match, Simon Busuttil, leader of the Nationalist Party, and Paul Sultana, president of the Malta Basketball Association, presented the trophy to Michael Naudi, captain of Athleta.

Athleta: M. Naudi 8, R. Vella 17, D. Camilleri 15, L. Stefanovic, P. Shoults 6, F. Mifsud Bonnici, B. Zammit 3, S. Vincic, M. Gauci Montaldo, J. Whitehead 10.

Floriana: C. Patus 8, S. Pace 15, S. Borg 1, A. Portelli 4, C. Calleja 11, A. Axiaq, V. Jandric, N. Andrejevic 6.

Referees: B. Vassallo, G. Barbara, C. Farrugia.

CaffÈ Moak Luxol 48
Gżira Athleta 40
(22-22, 26-18)

In the women’s final, a 13-0 break five minutes midway through the second half paved the way for Caffè Moak Luxol to fend off Gżira Athleta’s strong opposition till that juncture.

The first half had been balanced all the way.

Although Luxol established an early 18-11 lead, thanks to their best scorers Lindsay Lesser and Steffi De Martino, Athleta overhauled the deficit to level at 22-all by the end of the opening period.

The start of the second half continued to be a tit-for-tat affair until Luxol registered their game-winning break to open a 47-33 lead.

Despite Gżira’s last-ditch efforts, mainly through Christina Grima and Milica Stefanovic, Luxol held on to their lead.

The trophy was presented to captain Mandi Mercieca by Rosette Thake, PN secretary general.

Luxol: S. Pace 3, B. Zammit, M. Mercieca 6, I. Medina 2, C. Sollami, S. De Martino 14, K. Portelli, M. Darmanin, P. Ellul, N. Vella, L. Lesser 16, C. Curmi 7.

Gżira Athleta: M. Stefanovic 10, C. Grima 21, M. Debono, S. Pisani, L. Sciberras 1, M. Pollacco, D. Said Hollier 6, A. Borg 2, J. Schembri, S. Vella, E. Pace, C. Mifsud.

Referees: E. Mangani, S. Micallef.

Award winners

On Wednesday, the Malta Basketball Association (MBA) an-nounced the winners of the player of the year awards for season 2015/16.

The top players in their respective categories are:

Division One (men): David Bugeja (Virtus Basket).

Division One (women): Steffi De Martino (Caff Moak Luxol).

Division Two (men): Alec Felice Pace (Starlites).

Under-23: Gaby Mifsud (PAVI Depiro); Kurt Xuereb (PAVI Depiro).

Under-19: Hannah Al-Tumi (Hibernians); Alec Felice Pace (Starlites).

Under-16: Kristy Galea (Starlites); Keith Dimech (Luxol).

Under-14: Maya Vella (Hibernians); Matthew Scerri (Starlites).

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