On the field of play, it was a successful weekend for Gzira Athleta as they managed to lift both the men and women Louis Borg Cups as they warded off the opposition offered by Floriana and Starlites respectively in this competition where games are played over two legs.
Off the field, the same club, together with whole basketball community, were saddened with the news of the passing away of their president Marcel Pisani and fittingly all games on Sunday observed a minute’s silence in remembrance of this fine gentleman.
Gzira Athleta produced an outstanding performance in the first game to open up a size-able 21-point margin and then managed to wave off Floriana’s efforts in game 2 to win the Louis Borg Cup for a record ninth time in history and also laying their hands on the fourth seasonal honour.
Led by superior shooting from their captain Michael Naudi, who got a seasonal high of 36 points, and import player Josiah Whitehead, Gzira Athleta gradually increased their lead in the first game with Floriana committing a number of turnovers which proved detrimental in their plans.
With such a heavy deficit from the first game, Floriana faced a big uphill task in the second game. The greens did have a favourable moment when, late in the second quarter, they were winning a number of offensive rebounds and opened a 33-22 lead after hoops from Chad Patus and Sean Borg but Gzira Athleta steadily trimmed down the margin to a 43-43 game ten minutes later.
Gzira Athleta seemed poised for a win when a basket from Miguel Gauci Montaldo put them 56-50 ahead but Floriana managed to overturn the score in the last three minutes with a 10-2 run, including a trey from Nikola Andrejevic.
Michael Naudi, captain of Gzira Athleta, received the winning trophy from MBA President Emeritus Louis Borg after the final.
Comments after game 2:
Gzira Athleta’s guard Roderick Vella ….“we played a very disciplined first game both on the defensive and offensive ends. We managed to get our main scorers Mike and Josiah in good positions to take good shots while we limited their main scorers. In the second game we tried not to let them take a big lead and kept the game close. What is important is that we managed to win this cup especially for our President Marcel Pisani which sadly lost his battle to cancer throughout the weekend.”
Floriana’s guard Shaun Pace….”we managed to get a win In the second game which still was not enough to win the cup but it is a step forward to start regrouping and get in gear for the playoffs. In the first game Michael Naudi and Josiah Whitehead had an excellent performance where we struggled to stop them from scoring. During the second game we managed to improve our aggressiveness on defence which led us to several fast breaks. We will keep on working hard and will not let this loss affect us. On the other hand, we will try to use it in our favour to boost us so that we can play better.”
Floriana MCP Car Parks 67 Gzira Athleta 88
(15-22, 11-15, 16-22, 25-29)
Floriana: C. Patus 15, D. Krivokuca , S. Pace 13, S. Borg 3, N. Vasovic 18, C. Calleja , A. Axiaq 14, A. Micallef Trigona 2, N. Andrejevic 4.
Gzira Athleta: M. Naudi 36, R. Vella 6, D. Camilleri 3, P. Shoults 12, F. Mifsud Bonnici ,B. Zammit 6, S. Vincic , M. Gauci Montaldo , J. Whitehead 25
Referees: B. Vassallo, C. Farrugia, I. Marjanovic
Gzira Athleta 58 Floriana MCP Car Parks 60
(15-15, 13-21, 17-11, 13-13)
Gzira Athleta: M. Naudi 14, R. Vella 4, D. Camilleri 3, P. Shoults 16, F. Mifsud Bonnici, B. Zammit 2, S, Vincic, M. Gauci Montaldo 2, J. Whitehead 17
Floriana: C. Patus 20, D. Korvokuca, S. Pace 4, S. Borg 12, N. Vasovic 7, C. Calleja 2, A. Axiaq 10, A. Micallef Trigona 2, N. Andrejevic 3
The women final produced a nerve-wracking finale as the cup could have finished anywhere although finally Gzira Athleta reaped the benefits of their first game win so as to hold out and win the Louis Borg Cup for the first time in their history and the second seasonal honour after their success in the St James MBA Shield.
The first game produced a very low scoring game as both sides were quite erratic in their shooting having quite low percentages from the field.
Starlites, who were also playing their first ever final, seemed initially subdued, going also nine minutes without a point, with Athleta opening an early 17-8 lead led by their unswerving duo Amelia Simmons and Christina Grima.
Offensive plays improved a tad in the second half at both ends with Starlites gaining more confidence through plays from their experienced duo Patricia Arguello and Josephine Grima but Gzira Athleta always maintained the lead.
Starlites crept momentarily nearer to 25-29 but late free throws from Simmons gave Athleta an 8-point lead which ultimately proved crucial two days later.
In fact, game 2 was a total different game on the offensive ends. Initially, it looked like Athleta were going to close off the final early as they raced to a 13-2 lead after just seven minutes and a 19-point aggregate lead.
However matters changed completely in the next ten minutes of play as Starlites found their mark and registered an impressive 25-6 run with hoops also from their young players Kirsty Galea, Danielle Agius and Kim Pirotta so that the final was wide open with the two teams at par on aggregate.
Gzira Athleta regained a bit their composure after the interval and gradually took the upper hand again even reclaiming back the lead after a Leanne Sciberras hoop early in the last quarter.
Shortly afterwards the young Starlites guard Galea had a magic moment as she banged in three treys in a 12-0 run that made it 65-56 for the Naxxar side with two minutes to go.
All was set for a tense finale as both coaches also resorted to late time-outs. Athleta replied with six points in a minute only for Starlites to hit back through Samantha Farrugia for 70-63.
Antoinette Borg kept Athleta’s hopes high as she calmly potted two shots from the charity line in the final seconds although Starlites had a shot to force overtime when Davies, quite imprudently, was fouled on a long distance shot but she only managed one free throw.
Mr Louis Borg presented the cup and winning medals to Gzira Athleta whilst Starlites were given a sportive ovation for their efforts.
Comments after game 2:
Gzira Athleta coach Ruth Spiteri…..”It was a great final and fought to the very end and could have gone both ways. Our performance today was not one of the best and we only managed to win the cup as we defended well. I would like to congratulate Starlites for their excellent performance on both games as they gave us a very hard time to win this trophy”
Starlites coach David Baudot….”this was our first final and we had one of the most exciting games this season with only 2 points of difference. Today was a tough and well-fought game, we were good in offense but in defense we were conditioned by the fouls of our top players. Finally I would like to congratulate Athleta for the victory and thank to all the supporters who came to cheer us up. I am very proud of my girls as they worked hard and are a terrific team”
Women Game 1
Gzira Athleta 42 Starlites Naxxar 34
(13-8, 7-2, 8-10, 14-14)
Gzira Athleta: M. Stefanovic, C. Grima 12, B. Zammit, S. Pisani, L. Sciberras 6, A. Simmons 18, D. Said Hollier, A. Borg 4, J. Schembri, S. Vella 2, C. Mifsud
Starlites: K. Galea 5, J. Doughty 3, S. Farrugia 2, D. Revol, K. Pirotta 2, J. Micallef 4, J. Grima 8, P. Arguello 10, E. Magrin , S. Davies
Referees: B. Vassallo, C. Farrugia, B. Sly
Starlites Naxxar 71 Gzira Athleta 65
(10-15, 22-9, 13-20, 26-21)
Starlites: D. Agius 2, K. Galea 20, J. Doughty, S. Farrugia 7, K. Pirotta 3, J. Micallef 2, J. Grima 17, P. Arguello 15, E. Magrin, S. Davies 5, D. Revol
Gzira Athleta: M. Stefanovic, C. Grima 25, B. Zammit, S. Pisani, L. Sciberras 6, A. Simmons 24, D. Said Hollier 4, A. Borg 6, J. Schembri , C. Mifsud
Referees: J. Mangani, Z. Dobrosavljevic, I. Marjanovic
Louis Borg Cup Men Winners
2000 Pembroke Repsol
2001 Pembroke Repsol
2002 Hamrun L. Jaxa
2003 Fiat Luxol
2004 Siggiewi Smina
2005 Pembroke Athleta
2007 Dakar Sliema
2008 Bupa Luxol
2009 Compleet IS SW
2010 Siggiewi K. Boringer
2011 Siggiewi Derby
2012 AtoZ Electronics Athleta
2013 Pavi Depiro
2014 Bupa Luxol
2015 AtoZ Electronics Athleta
2016 Falken Cynergi Virtus
2017 Gzira Athleta