Ath­leta one step ahead of Depiro

Bas­ket­ball - Men Div II Fi­nal 1

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - SPORT -

Depiro 73 Gzira Ath­leta 86 (18-23, 21-25, 18-17, 16-21)

The open­ing fi­nal gave the ver­dict to ath­leta, who led for prac­ti­cally the whole match, ex­cept for a pause, mid­way through the open­ing ses­sion. Depiro blew hot and cold, as they al­ter­nated be­tween fall­ing be­hind and go­ing near to their ad­ver­saries. Ath­leta al­ways seemed to have the edge, and led by an ex­cel­lent Al­bert Serra, they could rely on Francesco Mif­sud Bon­nici to run the play, and Carmelo Puc­cia im­proved after the break, with Nathan Xuereb ap­ply­ing the fin­ish­ing touches in the last quar­ter.

Depiro had Jack Ny­gaard ob­tain­ing the most points, but he dried up in the last ses­sion, and it was left to ni­cholas Grech to try and keep his side in the match, even if he was in­jured, but gamely came back on court, to fin­ish the game.

Ath­leta were first out of the stalls, mak­ing an 8-3 run, from Ste­fan Vin­cic and Serra, with Depiro hav­ing Ny­gaard with his first trey. Depiro then forged in front, for their only time, with an 8-0 run, and an­other brace of Ny­gaard triples.

Ath­leta re­gained their ad­van­tage, till the end of the ses­sion, as they made up a good 11-4 run, mainly from Serra.

In the sec­ond pe­riod Ath­leta ex­tended their lead, but Depiro hit back, with a 9-2 run, all from treys, with Kurt Xuereb bag­ging btwo, and an­other by Ny­gaard. Ath­leta re­cov­ered, to push for­ward again, with a 10-2 run, and more Serra hoops, also with a triple.

Ny­gaard put in more points, and a fifth triple, but Ath­leta re­sponded be­fore the in­ter­val, as Vin­cic sank his trey, and Ath­leta were lead­ing 48-39.

After the break Depiro had to chase their op­po­nents, and re­ply to ath­leta's points. This time it was puc­cia for ath­leta, ac­tive in the paint, and Mif­sud Bon­nici net­ting a triple.

Depiro be­gan to draw near once more, with Ny­gaard and Xuereb hoops, but Mif­sud Bon­nici man­aged an­other trey, as Ath­leta kept their ad­van­tage con­stant, on a 65-57 score.

In the last ses­sion Depiro's at­tempts to gain ground had a set­back, as Adam Chomo was fouled out. It was the turn of Grech, with a per­sonal 8-2 run, and a triple, to take Depiro just a point be­hind. At the other end Xuereb fi­nally sank his triples, two of them, in an 8-0 run, when Depiro's hopes took a nose­dive, as Xuereb was out, on two tech­ni­cal fouls, with three min­utes re­main­ing.

Ath­leta ab­sorbed Depiro's last fran­tic at­tempts, even if Grech man­aged an­other trey, but a fi­nal three point spread took Ath­leta enough in front, for Depiro to con­cede the match.

The sec­ond fi­nal is on, for next Tues­day, again at 7.30pm.

Depiro: A. At­tard , N. Grech 17, J. Camil­leri , A. Chomo 10, K. Xuereb 12, M. Borg 8, M. Zloh , M. Brin­cat, J. Ny­gaard 26, M. De­bat­tista , J. Vibe

Ath­leta: K. Schem­bri, F. Mif­sud Bon­nici 13, C. Puc­cia 12, A. Serra 27, L. Ste­fanovic 2, N. Xuereb 21, J. Aquilina , J. Caru­ana , S. Vin­cic 9, J. Rans­ley 2, M. Cilia

Ref­er­ees: E. Man­gani, T. Man­tere, C. Xuereb

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