League leaders Hibs and current reigning champions Starlites GiG continued dominating the women’s league as they registered further wins.
Luxol and ARMS Depiro are clearly tussling for the final play-off spot and the coming weekend’s direct encounters can result in important points as regards the play-off pairings.
In the first round, Luxol had beaten Depiro 76-61 and the pressure now is surely on the Mtarfa side who cannot lose if they want to keep their playoff chances alive.
The forthcoming top of the table clash between Hibs and Starlites is also of importance. Hibs had emerged winners 67-63 in the first-round match and are aware that another win this Saturday can almost totally ascertain their direct qualification to the play-off final series.
Starlites GIG 76
ARMS Depiro 49
(14-17, 16-7, 28-11, 18-14)
The start of the second half was the influential moment in this Starlites’ win over Depiro.
The first half had witnessed different facets of play and the two sides, who will be facing each other in the Knock-Out and Louis Borg Cup finals in the coming weeks, were quite close to each other at the change of ends.
A 10-1 run midway in the first quarter, off a trey and hoop from Michela Zammit Cordina, an and-one play by Maria Bonett and a bucket from Patricia Arguello, placed Starlites GiG 14-3 ahead.
However, ARMS Depiro produced a fine recovery. Julia Xerri, who was playing her first game with them after signing from Hibs earlier in the week, had six free throws and shared points together with American Hannah Johnson as Depiro even took the lead 17-14 at the end of the first quarter after an impressive 14-0 run.
Four consecutive hoops from Stephanie Demartino opened a somewhat points-wise dry second quarter as Starlites again forged ahead after a ten-point streak.
The half-time break had the two sides six points apart, 30-24, but when play restarted, the Naxxar side started extending their lead as respective six- and nine-point runs moved them to a plus 20-pont lead with Arguello, Zammit Cordina and Anthea Micallef the main point-grabbers.
Depiro were still finding it difficult to maintain offensive consistency even in the first half of the last quarter with Starlites going 66-37 ahead.
Points returned a bit aplentiful at both ends in the last three minutes of play but the game was already decided at that stage.
Starlites: M. Zammit Cordina 15, M. Riolo, A. Micallef 10, S. Farrugia 8, M. Bonett 5, S. DeMartino 18, C. Curmi 2, C. Cilia , P. Arguello 12, M. Cutajar, S. Davies 2, A. Lupo 4.
Depiro: No. Agius, N. Borg 4, N. Agius 8, F. Mifsud, J. Borg 2, D. Said Hollier, M. Scicluna, J. Xerri 8, C. Camilleri, N. Hili, H. Johnson 27, E. Cassar, E. Cassar.
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, V. Nikolic, S. Tafilica.
(18-19, 14-10, 30-17, 17-10)
The first part of this encounter resulted in a very balanced affair with Luxol even closing off ahead, albeit with a marginal lead, after the first quarter and only three points separated the two sides at the interval.
Things changed when play restarted as two strong patches in the third quarter paved the way for Hibs’ win over Luxol and then the Paolites ascertained the victory with a 10-0 run in the final ten minutes of play.
Luxol presented a new signing in six-foot-one centre Zane Neilande. The 26-year-old Latvian played last season in the Italian Serie B with CUS Messina.
The two respective starting fives replied to each other in the first quarter with the lead changing hands a number of times until late hoops from Monique Caruana and Neilande had Luxol marginally ahead.
Five free throws from six by Sharon Vella, at the start of the second quarter, extended Luxol’s lead to 24-20 but with Amelia Simmons constantly pounding the Luxol ring, on her way to a personal 32-point tally, Hibs managed to go in for the half-time recess enjoying a 32-29 lead.
Treys from the young Naomi Farrugia and Jasmine Abela helped the veteran Simmons, Ashleigh van Vliet and Samantha Brincat in steering Hibs to a handsome margin by the end of the third quarter as 16 points divided the two sides, 62-46.
Although Luxol set off with two quick hoops, off Sarah Pace and Neilande, in the last rubber, it was Hibs who made sure of their fifth straight league victory with an 11-point streak.
Hibs: I. Agius 2, Y. Bonett 4, A. Van Vliet 19, S. Brincat 8, J. Dabic, J. Abela 3, C. Camilleri, N. Farrugia 9, K. Calleja, K. Caruana 2, M. Buhagiar, A. Simmons 32
Luxol: S. Pace 12, P. Ellul 3, N. Vella, No. Vella, S. Vella 14, A. Borg 6, J. Schembri 3, M. Caruana 8, L. Caruana Montaldo, Z. Neilande 10.
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, S. Tafilica, N. Xuereb.
Hibs (5-0) 10; Starlites GiG (4-1) 9; Luxol (1-4) 6; ARMS Depiro (0-5) 5.