Team unity key to success in Armenia
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Team unity key to success in Armenia

Members of the Malta women's team posing with the championship trophy yesterday.

Members of the Malta women's team posing with the championship trophy yesterday.

The Malta Basketball Association were in party mood yesterday as they celebrated the success of the women's national team at the European Championship Division C in Yerevan, Armenia, last weekend.

The 'golden girls' beat hosts Armenia 74-65 in Saturday's final to become the first team to chalk up back-to-back titles in the FIBA-Europe competition after Luxembourg two years ago. In between, coach Santino Coppa had led the team to a GSSE gold medal, in Cyprus, last year.

Team skipper Josephine Grima described the victory in Yerevan as one of the most memorable in her career.

"I am very proud to have won a second successive gold medal in the European Championships," Grima, who potted 22 points in the final, told The Times at a reception in St Julian's.

"We won all our matches but competition was tough. In the end, however, our strong teamwork saw us through. Personally, this victory holds more significance than the one of Luxembourg as this time we had one overseas player less in our squad and the contribution of the locally-based players was more effective.

"Beverlee Zammit, for instance, came on in difficult times during the tournament and she did well to push the team out of trouble with timely three-pointers."

Rebecca Brincat Thoresen, the team's chief scorer with an average of 22 points, said the level of competition in Armenia was by far higher than 2008.

Like Grima, she singled out the unity inside the dressing room as key to their success.

"The level of competition was a notch ahead of Luxembourg," Thoresen said.

"Countries like Armenia and Moldova were making their first appearance and although no-one had a clue on their technical abilities, we played with great heart and that was enough to see us through. This team is progressing steadily and I'm confident we can continue to develop this sport even further."

A special guest yesterday was FIBA Europe secretary Nar Zanolin, currently in Malta to attend a meeting of the commission of the European small countries.

The main item on today's agenda will be a new format to the European Championship that should give an opportunity to countries like Malta to feature in the qualifiers.

Zanolin, a former FIBA referee who was in charge of the 1984 Olympic Games final, said he was impressed by the MBA's achievements in recent years.

"Maltese basketball has made giant strides since my last visit here a few years back," the Canadian said.

"Results like the ones of the women's national team are indeed remarkable and credit should be given to the players and the MBA.

"My appeal is for the government and major private firms here to give their support to this sport. If the MBA gets the backing they deserve there will be more outstanding results waiting in the pipeline for the Maltese."

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