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Hibs miss out on top-four slot

Kristy Galea, of Starlites, going for the basket as Julia Scerri, of Hibs, looks on. Photo: Wally GaleaKristy Galea, of Starlites, going for the basket as Julia Scerri, of Hibs, looks on. Photo: Wally Galea

With only one day to go till the end of the regular season, all four play-off spots are now known after Hibernians failed in their task to beat Starlites. What still needs to be decided is the final placings of all top four teams and the semi-final series sequence.

Tomorrow, Gżira Athleta play Starlites. A win for Athleta will put them on top of the heap with a better basket difference over Luxol in direct encounters.

On the other hand, a Starlites’ win would ascertain the third place for them and they would meet the same Athleta in the semi-finals.

In tomorrow’s other match, Hibernians take on Depiro with the latter team also interested on the outcome of the first match.

Should Starlites lose, a win over Hibs would see Depiro reach Starlites on equal points in the table but Depiro would end up third as they beat Starlites twice in the league.

That means Athleta would meet Starlites in the semi-finals and Depiro face Luxol in the other post-season series.

Caffe Moak Luxol 47
Gżira Athleta 54

(10-14, 3-20, 20-11, 14-9)

A strong Athleta showing in the second quarter, with the interval score at 34-13, was very influential in this clash between the top two sides in the league.

Luxol could only pot three shots from the free-throw line and had no baskets in the second quarter as they started falling behind with Athleta banging in a number of treys from Antoinette Borg, Beverly Zammit and Leanne Sciberras.

The half-time pep talk served Luxol to improve and two good runs saw them halve the deficit by the end of the third quarter, 33-45.

The margin was narrowed even more after early Paula Ellul and Christina Curmi hoops for Luxol in the last quarter but Athleta recouped their efforts to hit back and re-establish a comfortable lead.

Luxol: S. Pace 7, M. Mercieca 7, A. Munir 14, I. Baena Medina, K. Portelli, C. Sollami, P. Ellul 6, L. Caruana Montaldo, M. Darmanin 6, C. Curmi 7.

Athleta: C. Grima 17, B. Zammit 5, L. Sciberras 5, A. Simmons 16, D. Said Hollier 3, A. Borg 8, J. Schembri, S. Vella, A. Debenay, C. Mifsud.

Referees: B. Vassallo, C. Farrugia, I. Simic.

Starlites Naxxar 72
Hibernians 68

(12-16, 16-24, 14-10, 22-14 –  8-4)

This game had to be decided after overtime after Starlites, who could have done with a minimal loss to seal their top-four position, forced the extra five minutes of play with a late Patricia Arguello three-pointer.

This was a must-win game for Hibs and they went very close to achieving their objective only to fall behind in overtime.

Hibs were the better side in the first half. Led by guard Silvia Gambino and the points from Trudy Armstead and Julia Scerri, the Paolites surged in front.

Starlites, who had Josephine Grima back from injury, improved in the third quarter and had a 7-0 run which brought them close until a late Kim Portanier Mifsud trey helped Hibs end the same quarter 50-42 ahead.

The fourth rubber was very appealing. Elena Cassar had a trey for Hibs but Starlites hit back decisively and shot in front after a 13-point run with hoops from Arguello and young duo Kristy Galea and Jaelle Micallef.

Hibs did not throw in the towel. Armstead put the Blacks back in front as the Paolites also held possession very late in the game.

Yet, a turnover off an out-of-bounds play, after a time-out, gave Starlites an opportunity to force overtime and Arguello’s effort gave them a psychological edge over their opponents.

In fact, Starlites were the sprightlier side in overtime.

Hibs, shorn of Gambino’s presence on court, did try to get back but Starlites kept their cool and emerged winners.

Starlites: K. Galea 12, J. Doughty 5, S. Farrugia 6, K. Pirotta 4, J. Micallef 11, J. Grima 10, P. Arguello 24, A. Lupo.

Hibs: E. Micallef 6, E. Cassar 9, S. Gambino 7, I. Agius 1, K. Caruana, K. Portanier Mifsud 5, T. Armstead 28, A. Marinkovic,  J. Scerri 12.

Referees: B. Vassallo, C. Farrugia, I. Simic.

Standings
BUPA Luxol (9-3) 21; Gżira Athleta (8-3) 19; Starlites (5-6) 16; Depiro(4-7) 15; Hibernians (3-8) 14.

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