Ath­leta last the game bet­ter, to win the Shield

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

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

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