Athleta last the game better, to win the Shield
Gzira Athleta 74 Floriana Car Parks 58 (15-15, 23-22, 16-8, 20-13)
This was already the fourth time this season, that these two sides have faced each other, and Athleta have always emerged winners.
This was also the second final lost by the Greens to Athleta, with the Independence Cup being the first casualty.
There was nothing to choose between the two sides till the interval, with Floriana coming back from a deficit, to stay close in touch.
The second part of the encounter was another matter. Athleta began to draw away from midway through the third period, and then repeated the dose in the last quarter, to break clear, and deny Floriana any occasion to get back in the reckoning.
Athleta introduced their new signing, the Dutchman, Judas Bas, though he remained on the bench, given the sterling display by the American, Josiah Whitehead, who finished as the game's top scorer.
Athleta have claimed this honour for the ninth time, after an absence of three seasons, when they had won the Shield for a four year spell, from 2010 to 2013.
It was tit for tat at the start, with the lead changing hands for a total of six times. Late in the session Athleta came up with a series of free throws, to grab another lead.
The Greens overturned the score once more, only for Peter Shoults to sink a trey for Athleta. Chad Patus brought both sides level till the end of the session. In the second period Whitehead and David Camilleri triples took Athleta to a better advantage, but Floriana were back with a Patus trey.
Billy Zammit and Roderick Vella also netted triples for Athleta, as they held a maximum lead, but Floriana stood their ground, and slowly came back, with a third Patus triple taking them in front. Shoults free shots had Athleta just ahead, at the interval, on a slim 38-37 advantage.
After the break Athleta began to forge further ahead, but the Greens had Nikola Vasovic with a trey, to take them close once more.
Athleta kept pressing, and put in an 8-0 run, to widen the distance. Vasovic sank a second trey for Floriana, but Athleta had a better lead, with a last session to go, on a 54-45 score.
Floriana tried to make amends early, and a brief patch had the Greens nearer, but Athleta struck back heavily, with a 12-0 run, and Vella and Zammit triples, to put the issue beyond doubt.
There was still time, and Patus netted another Flroiana trey, but Athleta's advantage was heavy, and another three hoop spread from them closed down the match definitely.
After the final the MBA president, Paul Sultana, presented the winning trophy to the Athleta skipper, Michael Naudi, now growing used again to handling the silverware, as in the seasons before the last one.
Athleta: M. Naudi 14, R. Vella 15, D. Camilleri 3, L. Stefanovic , P. Shoults 10, F. Mifsud Bonnici, B. Zammit 8, J. Bas, S. Vincic, M. Gauci Montaldo, J. Whitehead 24
Floriana: C. Patus 15, S. Pace 4, D. Schembri 12, S. Borg 2, N. Vasovic 15, C. Calleja 8, A. Axiaq 2, N. Andrejevic
Referees: G. Barbara, C. Farrugia, T. Helenius
Photo: James Bianchi
Photo: James Bianchi