Four teams are set to face off this Sunday, 6 October, in the St James Hospital Super Cup, a trophy match that puts last year’s league champions against the winner of the Knockout Tournament. It marks the official start of the 2019-2020 basketball season.
Both of Hibernians senior teams will make an appearance in this year’s running of the cup, with Hibernian Men looking to defend their first-ever Super Cup victory against Gżira Athleta. This will come after the reigning women’s MAPFRE MSV Life Women’s League champions, Starlites GiG, take on Hibernians Women, recent champions of the Independence Cup. Last year, both Men’s and Women’s Hibernians sides were victors in the Super Cup.
The action starts at 14:15 at the Ta’ Qali Basketball Pavilion.
For the men’s side, Gżira Athleta (2018-2019 BOV League champions) have momentum going into this competition after running the table in the Independence Cup two weeks ago. Gżira Athleta have taken five out of the eight Independence Cup titles.
Head coach Sasa Dimitrijevic wants to build off this success by getting his players to focus on two things: play their way, and play like a champion.
“In our club, every game is important. If you want to be a champion, you have to play as a champion. Nothing (about our success) depends on Hibernians. It all depends on how we play. If we play smart and as a team, we will win.”
Hibernians will have to try and defend their Super Cup crown with a nearly all new starting five.
“Since last season, we have practically lost all our players from the starting five, so we are in the phase of building a new team,” Hibernians head coach Mario Tabone said. “However, we can still challenge for the Super Cup by being aggressive in defence and by playing as a team on offence.”
Tabone sees a tough combination of youth and veteran experience in Gżira Athleta’s squad, and it will be important for Hibernians’ newer lineup to match the reigning league champs’ intensity if they want to take home the Super Cup title yet again.
“Gżira Athleta are an aggressive and well-disciplined team. We have to be as aggressive and play with personality,” Tabone said. He added, “Any win is always important and always gives us momentum as a team, so we will be doing our best to win this cup.”
The Super Cup is a pivotal match for every team as it can provide an early season increase in confidence and performance. Both David Baudot and Silvia Gambino, head coaches of Starlites GiG and Hibernians, respectively, recognise this despite the Super Cup being such an early season competition.
“The Super Cup is an important cup for Hibs,” said Gambino. “In my opinion, it’s too early to be 100 percent ready to play in this important match, but winning the cup can give us more motivation to keep working harder and harder.”
“Winning the Super Cup would give our team a good boost,” said Baudot.
With the new season underway, Baudot is employing a simple formula to help his side build on last year’s success and to be victors in Sunday’s Super Cup.
The two sides faced each other in last season’s MAPFRE MSV Life Women’s League title tilt that went the full five games. Starlites GiG edged out Hibernians 73-69 in game five.
“We need to play as we train, play as a team and enjoy the game,” Baudot said about what it will take to win the Super Cup this weekend. “If we can stop Hibs’ key players, it will be easier for us to win.”
Gambino enters her first season as a senior head coach but has worked with and developed many of the young players in Hibernians’ squad. Gambino led Hibernians U-16s side to a championship last year. For her, the development of Hibernians’ young players is a key element to finding success not only in the Super Cup but in the season to come.
“We are very similar to Starlites, but we are also a new group of players,” she said. “We must stay focused on defense and have fun on offense.”
The next senior team competitions are on 12 and 13 October with the opening round of the St James Hospital MBA Shield. On 12 October Hibernians Women face ARMS Depiro Women at 16:15. October 13 will see Hibernians Men vs. Starlites GiG Men (12:45), Starlites GiG Women vs. Luxol Women (14:30) and the men game Gżira Athleta vs. Luxol (16:15).