The second round of the BOV League set off in the weekend with BUPA Luxol the only team not in action. Leaders and current champions Gżira Athleta continued with their winning streak as they registered their fifth league win while Starlites GiG managed to climb to a solitary second spot in the standings.
GŻIRA ATHLETA 118
(32-18, 35-24, 30-26, 21-27)
Gżira and Depiro offered a high-scoring encounter with 213 points shared between them in 40 minutes of regulation time.
Bolstered by a strong start, Gżira Athleta never looked back and managed to open a remarkable 25-point half time margin which they administered in the second half.
During the festive period, Depiro opted to part ways with the Serb centre Marko Todorovic and are awaiting the arrival of a new US import player in the coming days. At the same time, it looks like veteran Michael Naudi opted to end his short stay at the club.
On their end, Gżira Athleta were at full strength and their two Americans, Connell Crossland and Ian Theisen, set them off very early and when later they were assisted by Nathan Xuereb and Matthew Gouder the score was 23-10 after seven minutes of play.
Despite the fact that Depiro’s Quin Cooper was showing that he was again in fine shooting form, Athleta still persisted in more consistent offensive plays and the first quarter ended with 14 points separating the two sides, 32-18.
Points were again aplentiful in the second quarter which set off with Athleta three balls from Gouder, Peter Shoults and Milos Novakovic whilst Depiro tried to reply from their end with Kurt Xuereb and Nicholas Grech grabbing some hoops.
Eight consecutive Crossland points extended Gżira’s lead to 53-29 and despite Depiro notching a group of late points from Cooper and Adam Chomo, the reigning champions kept their momentum and went in for the interval leading 67-42.
Anyone who thought that the game would decrease in pace after the break was wrong as the two sides kept on with their open, fast play with more points raining in at both ends.
An early 8-0 run further extended Gżira’s margin to over 30 points but Depiro managed to partially cut down this deficit with an 18-6 run in the middle part of the third quarter.
Athleta found again their scoring touch late in the same quarter as a ten-point streak had them edge closer to the century mark for a 97-68 scoreline with one quarter to go. Their superior precision from long distance was one of the main factors in this win as Athleta netted 12 treys from 30 attempts whilst Depiro had just two from 16 tries along the game.
Even if 48 points were shared between the two sides in the last rubber, this was the least in the whole game.
Athleta, who also had a number of offensive boards along the game, surpassed the 100-mark very early in this last quarter and then seemed to relax a bit with Depiro, who had closed the first round with two wins and two losses, taking the opportunity to increase their own tally after a 16-5 run.
There were then a number of bench players on the court in the game’s scrimmage time with Gżira always in full control on their way to their fifth straight league win.
Gżira Athleta: M. Novakovic 9, C. Crossland 32, N. Buhagiar, P. Shoults 12, L. Stefanovic 6, S. Galea, N. Xuereb 12, M. Gouder 19, I. Thiesen 24, E. Abela 2, R. Abela 2.
Depiro: Q. Cooper 33, J. Attard, D. Farrugia 4, N. Grech 15, O. Said 4, K. Xuereb 18, M. Borg 2, A. Chomo 19, A. Attard.
Refs: B. Vassallo, G. Barbara, D. Torok
Starlites GIG 95
(28-22, 23-17, 25-19, 19-20)
Starlites and Hibernians were eyeing a solitary second spot in the standings after ending the first round with two wins and two losses together with Depiro.
In mid-November, Hibernians had opened their league commitments with an 87-84 win over Starlites but this time it was the latter that ended on the winning side.
Both teams presented new US import players.
The Naxxar side introduced the 25-year-old Massachusetts-born Bobby Ahearn who played NCAA Division 1 up till 2018 with Binghamton Bearcats and last year featured in the Irish Super League with the Griffith College Thunder before this club was disbanded.
The six-foot-six Aheard, who replaced Jeremy Marseille while joining Konor Kulas on the team’s roster, is also a nephew of Vinny Del Negro who played in the NBA and Italy as well as coaching the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers in the recent years.
On the other hand, Hibs added Jay Hardy to their ranks joining fellow American Chandler Rowe as well as Serb Ivan Demcesen and injured Swede William Ahlberg. Hardy was apparently last playing in Australia with the Darwin side Uni Rebels following a spell in Colombia with Cimaronnes.
Youngsters Matthew Scerri and Alec Felice Pace notched the game’s first hoops early on but Hibs replied with a bang as they made effective use of Hardy’s athleticism through a number of fast transitions and the debutant, together with high-scoring Nikola Vasovic, led the Paolites to a 15-6 lead after just five minutes forcing an early Starlites’ time-out.
This proved fruitful as they came back with an eight-point streak with treys from Robert Bonnici and Ahearn and shortly afterwards, added a 12-0 run with other long-distance shots this time from Kulas and Ian Felice Pace.
These two mini-runs helped Starlites to forge once again ahead and neutralise Hibs’ efforts which now also included Demcesen’s threat underneath the boards.
The Naxxar side kept their momentum even in the first part of the second quarter as three more treys helped them to extend their lead to 41-26.
It was only a brace of late three balls from David Bugeja and Hardy as well as a Rowe bucket that helped Hibs to decrease a bit the deficit at the interval mark.
Although Starlites re-established their 15-point lead very early in the second half, Hibs managed to show character and re-opened, albeit momentarily, the game with a 12-point streak that brought them 52-55 behind forcing their opponents for another early time out in this half.
Kulas and Ahearn combined for a 9-2 run reply and then, late in the third rubber, the victors had a 10-2 spurt and suddenly found themselves once again with a double digit lead at 76-58.
Pressure was once again on Hibs and they had a good patch in the last quarter with a 12-2 run but there was still a double-digit margin between the sides.
With three minutes to go, Starlites netted eight points on the run and ascertained their third league victory.
Starlites: A. Felice Pace 14, B. Zammit, R. Bonnici 21, I. Felice Pace 5, M. Fabri, M. Falzon, M. Scerri 10, R. Carabott 2, K. Kulas 29, R. Ahearn 14.
Hibs: J. Hardy 27, P. Attard, D. Bugeja 5, K. Caruana, L. Farrugia 2, I. Bonett, N. Vasovic 22, A. Axiaq, M. Matijevic 4, M. Attard, C. Rowe 8, I. Demcesen 10.
Refs: B. Vassallo, G. Barbara, L. Camilleri.
Gżira Athleta (5-0) 10; Starlites GiG (3-2) 8; Depiro (2-3) 7; Hibernians (2-3) 7; BUPA Luxol (0-4) 4.