The 2019 Independence Cup had two firsts in its competition history: the first participation of a foreign side, Polisportiva La Salle based in Rome, in Italy, and the participation of a local Amateur League side Mellieha SC Libertas Spalding.
La Salle, who earned promotion to Italy’s Serie C Silver league after topping the Serie D season last year, struggled in their first match when they faced the eventual tournament winner Gzira Athleta but later seemed to find more their footing in the next two games.
Against Hibernians, it took a buzzer beater to put away the Italian side 53-50. On the next day, La Salle defeated Luxol 63-62 in their final match in the group phase but, despite ending joint second in the table together with Luxol and Hibs, failed to enter the semifinals through the point differential rule in the direct encounters.
However, it was the “local visitors” who made some ‘noise’ in the weekend’s tournament. Mellieha Libertas Spalding looked at their Independence Cup commitments with the simple objective of building team chemistry to prepare for a competitive Amateur League season, according to head coach Ian Terribile. However, they ended up turning some heads by managing also to earn a spot in the semifinals.
They fought hard with Depiro in their opening encounter only to end with a 63-54 loss but later registered an impressive result when they defeated Starlites to eventually qualify as the second classified team in the group through the application of basket difference given that the three teams in the group ended with a respective win and loss.
Mellieha’s coach Ian Terribile said after the tournament, “it was amazing to get to the semis and I believe we were a surprise to all in the basketball community.”
The young squad ran into the dominant Gzira Athleta in the semi final and fell short 52-72. Despite that result, Terribile saw the positives moving forward in the season. “We realize that we are on the right track to have a good season, although there are many more things to learn.”
Recognising the lack of opportunities for youngsters to learn and participate in the game of basketball in the northern region especially to the north of Mosta, the club formerly known as Victoria Libertas Spalding joined forces, very recently, with Mellieha Sports Club (who used to participate in the local leagues winning also second division championships and cups as well as taking part, for a short spell, in the first division) to kick start a new basketball community in the north of Malta.
Terribile grew up in “a basketball family” starting his career with Mosta. He later joined Hamrun at the age of 15 and was named the under 16 player of the year after a league championship season. His career bounced from there to Siggiewi and later Mellieha, forming part of MBA Shield winning squads and also being named the 3-pointer shooter of the year in 2007. In his youth playing days, he was captain of the Malta U16 team and played with the U18s national squad. Now, Ian wants to pass on his basketball experience and knowledge to the young players in Mellieha and the north of Malta. “I will be using my experience to coach the team I used to play with,” said Terribile. “The players are producing great results and we hope we can do big things together.”
Created by John Van Vliet and edited by Bernard Vassallo