Malta’s national basketball team won the 2016 FIBA Small Countries Women’s European Championship for the third time yesterday after beating Ireland 67-59 in the final.
Ireland started strongly and were ahead 27-19 at the end of the first quarter. But coach Angela Adamoli’s half-time pep talk must have instilled some much-needed confidence in her players as Malta overturned a 10-point halftime deficit to claim gold in Tercentenary Sports Hall.
Malta stepped up the defence in the second half of the Final after Ireland had been leading 39-29 at the break managed to only score 20 more points in the final two quarters. In fact, Malta hit back strongly to win the next quarter 22-11 and take a narrow one-point lead – 51-50 – before the last session got underway.
Ireland, who trounced Andorra 86-45 in the semi-finals, tried all ways to pierce the Maltese defence. Claire Rockall gave Ireland a 55-51 lead with eight minutes to go. Malta answered with an 8-0 run, but could not break the Irish until the final minute of the game. Aine McKenna hit a three-pointer to bring Ireland back within three (59-62). Malta’s Stephanie De Martino missed her shot on the ensuing possession, but Sarah Pace was in the right place and grabbed the crucial offensive rebound. Ashleigh Stephanie Vella’s second-chance points took the game out of Ireland’s reach for another outstanding triumph at this level of the continental game.
Steffi DeMartino scored 16 points and Christina Grime 15, while Ashleigh Vella played a key role in the victory, contributing with 14 points and 10 rebounds, with Josephine Grima netting 14 points.
Malta won all their matches in the tournament and booked their place in the final after eliminating Moldova with a mammoth 90-30 win on Saturday.
Malta’s Christina Grima was the MVP of the 2016 FIBA Women’s European Championship for Small Countries and featured in the All-Star Five. Josephine Grima joined her on the team, as did Ireland’s Sarah Woods, Wales’ Sarah Wagstaff and Moldova’s Ala Gavrilita.
Game Statistics of the Final: Click here
Photos from the Final: Click here to view
Notable Congratulations for the team