The women's national team will target another podium finish in basketball's Promotion Cup at Ta' Qali next week (July 18-23).

Two years ago, Santino Coppa's girls achieved one of their best performances ever on the international scene after placing third in the same tournament staged in Andorra. That result meant direct qualification to the 2006 Commonwealth Games which were staged in Melbourne last March.

Coppa yesterday told reporters that since his appointment three years ago he has seen women's basketball in Malta making giant strides forward, the progress highlighted by gold and bronze medals in the 2003 and 2005 GSSEs and the 2004 Promotion Cup third place.

"We are approaching the completion of the first cycle in our women's team project. Naturally, I am pleased with the players but we have to see that progress is maintained," Coppa said.

"Their dedication and passion for the game is incredible and that helps to obtain creditable results. Now, we are looking to repeat our third placing in the Promotion Cup and, perhaps, do better with home advantage on our side.

"It won't be easy. Scotland and Luxembourg have good sides but I know my players... they're fighters."

Malta was drawn in Group B along with Wales, Andorra and Scotland. Gibraltar, Moldova and Luxembourg play in Group A.

This is the 18th and last edition of the Promotion Cup as FIBA has already decided to revamp the competition and split teams in three divisions according to strength. Malta will play in Division C.

MBA president Antonio Mizzi said the long-term goal is for the women's team to earn promotion to Division B.

"To achieve that we are fully concentrating on our junior teams to see that the development continues," he said.

"We have Salvo Coppa, Italy's U-20 coach, in charge of our junior girls' teams. We believe that his expertise, coupled with that of his father Santino, will be the key to more satisfactory results."

Magistrate Mizzi added that Peugeot have agreed to extend their women's league and national team sponsorship for another year.

National team stalwart Josephine Grima has just completed her first full year with Italy's Priolo, runners-up in last season's Serie A league.

"It was a great experience for me," Grima said. "The training is good and playing professional basketball week in week out was my childhood dream... I am really proud to be fulfilling my ambition.

"At Priolo, I feel I have improved a lot as a player. But now we're preparing for the Promotion Cup and I think the squad looks strong enough to finish in a high position."


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