Positive Athleta start not enough
Caffe Moak Luxol 56
Gzira Athleta 52
(11-22, 9-7, 15-4, 21-19)
Luxol made a very uneasy start as they played out the match without their Italian mentor Francesco Manella who was back in his homeland attending his daughter’s marriage. It was left to their skipper Mandi Mercieca to rally the team.
At first things didn’t seem to work out and Athleta established a good lead. When Mercieca decided that her place was on court Luxol showed their worth to nullify an interval deficit. Athleta rallied back but spent the rest of the match chasing from close quarters but to no avail.
The champions are still missing Beverlee Zammit and also had Noelene Vella missing whilst Athleta welcomed back their American import Amelia Simmons who was with them a couple of seasons back before the moratorium last season without any foreigners. She still needs time to get in stride with the rest of the squad but that will come with match practice.
Athleta put in the game’s first four hoops with Simmons grabbing a couple. Luxol slowly started their way back with Lindsay Lessard’s free throws but Denise Said Hollier threw a triple for Athleta and they went on to make up a session ending 12-2 run as Christina Grima the player of the match continued with a personal 9 point haul and a triple.
In the second session the scoring fell away with Luxol just edging out their opponents on points and with Simmons netting a late trey to take Athleta to a 29-20 advantage into the interval.
After the break, a different story emerged. The champions limited their adversaries to just a couple of hoops both from Grima but they had Christina Curmi in fine form under the board as she helped her side to overtake Athleta with Mercieca helping out with her hoops.
The last session had Luxol ahead on a single hoop lead at 3533. Athleta didn’t take long to reverse the score as Grima kept on with her points with a brace of treys. The champions’ reaction brought them a 7-2 run as Steffi DeMartino finally got in among the scorers.
Athleta were only a hoop in arrears on three occasions when late triples from DeMartino and Sarah Pace were only offset with a single Grima trey edging Luxol slightly more ahead.
Simmons’ last free shot was not enough to erase Athleta’s defeat as Luxol ensured their place as the first semi finalists.
Luxol: S. Pace 7, M. Darmanin, M. Mercieca 12, I. Baena Medina, C. Sollami, S. DeMartino 8, K. Portelli, A. Calleja, P. Ellul, L. Lessard 13, C. Curmi 16
Athleta: C. Grima 29, M. Debono, S. Pisani, L. Sciberras 4, A. Simmons 12, D. Said Hollier 5, A. Borg, M. Pollacco, S. Vella 2, E. Pace, C. Mifsud
Referees: G. Barbara, J. Mangani