(8-13, 13-7, 7-17, 16-12)
Luxol won the Under 23 women’s championship after a low scoring final that could have gone either way.
Captain Christina Curmi was happy to raise the winning trophy after the match.
“The game was, as expected, a well-balanced affair. It could have gone either way till the very end but thankfully it ended up in our favour,” Curmi said.
“We started with a good lead but then went into half-time minus one.
“Not much was said in the dressing room except that it was a do-or-die match and we had the last 20 minutes to prove what we are capable of doing. We started playing our game and gained a slight advantage till the end.”
In fact, Luxol had taken a good early 13-5 lead with hoops from Noelene Vella, Cristina Sollami and Curmi. They also had Monique Caruana roped in late in the day for the final.
“I arrived back in Malta on the eve of the final and had only one training session with the team,” Caruana said.
“Both teams had every player playing with great heart till the end.
“Hibs had a very strong and fast team whereas we had the height advantage that helped us in both defensive and offensive rebounds. It was a great experience in which we learnt to control the game and this led us to a win.”
An 11-0 run propelled Hibs back into the game with points from Julia Xerri, Sophie Abela and Kirsty Caruana so that all was practically level till the interval where there was a 21-20 lead.
“This was a challenging final for our young team as we tried our best,” Hibs guard Iona Agius said.
“We did miss some easy chances but the game could have gone either way. We are still proud with what we achieved as, after all, we did place fourth overall and managed to beat the leaders Depiro to make it to the final.”
Both sides had certain problems along the season as stated by Luxol forward Cristina Sollami.
“The road that led to this game has not been an easy one but fortunately the league turned out the way we hoped and I am super proud of the team,” she said.
“It was a hard-fought game which could have gone both ways and credit has to be given to Hibs as they fought till the very end but luckily we had enough determination and experience to pull us through.”
Abela joined Hibs midway through the season and her contribution was crucial for the Paolites.
“Unfortunately the game did not go as we had planned. We struggled initially to get to the basket but as the game continued we managed to start playing,” Abela said.
“Although defensively we tried our best, Luxol have some players that were not easy to mark but never stopped fighting. Although we did not win I am still very proud of my team-mates for giving their all. We must learn from this loss and train harder.”
The Paolites moved to a maximum 25-22 lead early in the third quarter. Their best scorer on the day, Julia Xerri, said: “As expected, the final was a very well-fought game. Luxol went well ahead of us on two separate occasions but thanks to our team spirit and determination we always managed to make a comeback.
“I believe we did well defensively but we should have done better in certain offensive circumstances.”
Midway in the third quarter, Luxol had a game changing moment with 13 straight points to open a double-digit lead.
Hibs however, staged a good comeback and came a mere basket away late in the game, 42-44.
Luxol were missing a number of free throws and the game was open until late Martina Darmanin free throws ascertained Luxol’s win.
MBA president Paul Sultana presented the winning trophy to the Luxol clan after the game.
Luxol coach Chris Stolp was proud of his players.
“Our journey to reach the final was not easy since we were a small amount of players throughout the season with two young U-16 players. Yet they both followed the instructions and made use of their strong bond,” he said.
Hibs: K. Calleja, J. Xerri 12, I. Agius 4, J. Abela 6, B. Agius, N. Farrugia, K. Caruana 11, S. Abela 11.
Luxol: M. Caruana 3, B. Borg Millo, Nic. Vella, No. Vella 9, C. Sollami 12, L. Caruana Montaldo, M. Darmanin 6, C. Curmi 19.
Referees: B. Vassallo, E. Mangani, V. Nikolic.
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