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Athleta 'show heart' to win Shield

Gżira Athleta beat Hibs to win St James Hospital Shield. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Gżira Athleta beat Hibs to win St James Hospital Shield. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Gżira Athleta 55
Hibernians 38
(14-10, 4-15, 19-2, 18-11)

Gżira Athleta made it a repeat win in the St James Hospital Shield as they continued from last year’s success and made it two in a row after beating Hibernians in a match that was decided in the third quarter.

With Hibs closing the first half 25-18 ahead, Gżira Athleta came back with a bang after the interval and managed not only to neutralise the point deficit but also jump to a double digit 37-27 lead with ten minutes to go.

Try as they might in the last quarter, Hibs could not regain a footing in the game as the damage was done as Gżira Athleta found a lot of confidence in their play, banging in a series of hoops at a consistent rate.

Gżira’s guard Denise Said Hollier said the team showed great heart to win the title.
“The team showed great heart,” she said.

“After the break we regrouped ourselves and found the best options in offence and played hard defence. That gave us a significant advantage in the third quarter which we managed to increase further in the last quarter.”

Forward Antoinette Borg, who nailed in three treys in the final, agreed with her team-mate.

“Today’s game was a sheer example of the importance of teamwork. I believe we were rated the underdogs in this game, and we were for the first half, trailing by seven points at half-time,” Borg said.

“However, we managed to change the momentum with great ball movement and overturned the score.”

Hibs will surely be disappointed to have squandered their first-half advantage with some erratic offensive play in the third quarter.

Sandro Farrugia, Hibs coach,congratulated Gżira for the win. “Although it was not a high-scoring match it was still a nice game to watch,” he said.

“Athleta may have had a slight advantage in the sense that it was their fifth game, of which two were finals and they also kept the same team structure for these past three years.

“On the other hand, we have made a lot of changes, introducing some new local players, a new foreigner and a new coach. Hence it will take time to develop good team chemistry.

Nevertheless, I think my team is working very hard to compete for the remaining titles.”

Hibs surely need to improve their team play with American Rachel Kehoe working hard and many times posting up well in the paint but not managing to receive the right pass from the guards.

On the other hand, Amelia Simmons was again instrumental in Athleta’s win as she was a constant threat and very hard working on the boards.

Young Julia Schembri was given added playing time and contributed well to the team including a trey and a basket which further motivated her team mates. “This was an overwhelming experience for me playing in the final with the seniors team,” Schembri said.

“It was hard but through working all together as one team, we managed to get the win.

“It was great moving the ball around the full 24 seconds and scoring in the last seconds. We achieved what we all have been working hard for.”

Malta Basketball Association secretary general, Joseph Muscat, presented the trophy to the Gzira Athleta captain Leanne Duncan.

Gżira Athleta: N. Hili, B. Zammit 3, M. Pollacco,  S. Pisani, L. Duncan 10, A. Simmons 23, D. Said Hollier, A. Borg 10, J. Schembri 5, S. Vella 4, E. Pace, C. Mifsud.
Hibs: E. Micallef 10, E. Cassar 6, S. Gambino 2, S. Brincat 3, I. Agius, J. Abela 3, N. Vella, K. Caruana 2, N. Farrugia, R. Kehoe 12, J. Scerri.
Referees: B. Vassallo, I. Simic, Z. Dobrosavljevic.

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