Louis Borg Cup Men Final
The twentieth edition of the Louis Borg Cup was decided in the past weekends when the two leg final was played in the space of 48 hours and Gzira Athleta managed to overcome Starlites GIG’s stiff resistance to win the cup for the tenth time in history.
The two legs were of a very good quality with both sets of players also offering some high intensity plays added with spectacular plays which delighted the crowd assisting the games.
Aggregate Score: Gzira Athleta 162 – Starlites GIG 151
Gzira Athleta 72 – Starlites GIG 74
(15-8, 21-31, 23-15, 13-20)
Gzira Athleta: N. Vasovic 12, C. Crossland 20, P. Shoults 5, L. Stefanovic, A. Perunicic, N. Xuereb, M. Gouder, V. Pace 16, I. Mitrovic, J. Guity 19
Starlites: A. Felice Pace 10, O. Psaila, N. Formosa 2, R. Bonnici, I. Felice Pace, C. Ward 23, M. Falzon, M. Scerri, R. Carabott, W. Darley 9, A. Sears 2, J. Stotts 28
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, D. Torok, M. Hraisha
Starlites GIG 77 – Gzira Athleta 90
(10-16, 24-22, 13-20, 30-32)
Starlites: A. Felice Pace 14, O. Psaila, N. Formosa , R. Bonnici, I. Felice Pace, C. Ward 15, M. Falzon, M. Scerri, R. Carabott, W. Darley 14, A. Sears 2, J. Stotts 29
Gzira Athleta: N. Vasovic, C. Crossland 35, P. Shoults 2, L. Stefanovic, A. Perunicic, N. Xuereb 8, M. Gouder 10, V. Pace 29, I. Mitrovic, J. Guity 6
Referees: B. Vassallo, T. Mantere, K. Dworniczak
The first game resulted in a high intensity game with regular spurts of spectacular play ending in a marginal victory for Starlites GiG but all to play for in the second game.
Both sides had different leads along the 40 minutes of play, with the margin at times also being of double digits.
The first quarter was a low scoring one with the two sides initially wary of each other so early in the two leg final. With Americans Connell Crossland and Julio Guity getting the team’s initial hoops, Gzira Athleta had the first lead and closed off the first quarter 15-8 ahead.
Starlites had a positive start in the second quarter and overturned the score within three minutes and taking the lead 20-19 with Cameron Ward, Drew Sears, Nick Formosa and Jordan Stotts grabbing the points.
Two other Ward treys and consecutive Stotts close range plays kept Starlites in front and although Athleta did have a late six point run, the score was 39-36 for Starlites with a very late Stotts three pointer and an Alec Felice Pace hoop.
When play restarted Gzira Athleta showed the most consistency and in fact won the third quarter 23-15 and also had a double digit lead 55-45 midway in this session with Guity and Nikola Vasovic netting most of the baskets and forcing Starlites for an early second half timeout.
This helped Paul Ferrante’s side to reduce the deficit by half by the end of the quarter and then continued with an initial 7-0 run, with a Felice Pace trey on either end of a brace of Stotts’ baskets so that the lead changed hands once again.
Further Felice Pace points helped Starlites to a 68-63 lead but then Gzira Athleta were the only side with points in the next three minutes and the last round of the clock started with a marginal one point lead for Athleta 72-71.
In the last moments of the first match, Ward banged in two shots from the charity line and, shortly afterwards, Stotts added another from two so that Starlites took a small 2-point lead going into the second match.
The second match was also a tight duel with both sides feeling the importance and tension of the match especially in the first half and with play becoming more open and technical after the break.
It was Gzira Athleta who finally had the upper edge as they had most of the lead, inspired by their high scoring American duo Vincent Pace and Connell Crossland, with Starlites chasing for most of the game but always just a short step behind and the series was practically always open until the very final moments when Gzira Athleta managed to open a double digit lead with the time clock firmly in their favour.
With both sides setting off at par after the initial toss, Starlites were 9-8 ahead after five minutes but then dried up for over four minutes of play whilst Athleta massed eight straight points through Corssland, Guity and Nathan Xuereb.
The resulting margin was neutralized by Starlites halfway into the second quarter as Stotts, Felice Pace and a William Darley trey placed the Naxxar side 25-23 ahead.
Once again Athleta managed to overturn the score with Matthew Gouder helping the Pace/Crossland pair for a 38-34 half time lead and a two point lead on aggregate.
The series remained very open after the interval as Starlites kept at Athleta’s heels and the sixth minute had a brace of Felice Pace hoops putting his side ahead on aggregate even though 44-45 behind in this game.
Here came an interesting and important moment for Gzira Athleta when they managed to outscore their rivals 13-3 till the end of the third quarter so that they opened a double digit 58-47 lead and also put some psychological pressure on Starlites with only one quarter of play remaining.
Ward and Darley banged in early treys to raise Starlites’ hopes but in came Pace, at the opposite end, to maintain Gzira’s slender but important lead.
Two back-to-back Crossland hoops, four minutes from the final buzzer, had Sasa Dimitrejevic’s side go 75-64 ahead. Starlites made a final push and did have four treys with Ward and Stotts respectively scoring a brace but Gzira Athleta did not stay put and also got their points, some on transition play, to still a double digit lead coming into the final minute.
With Starlites trying to stop play, Athleta did not miss the resultant penalty free throws to ascertain the victory.
At the end of the second match, the winning trophy and medals were presented by Mr Louis Borg as Gzira Athleta celebrated this tenth success in this competition.
Louis Borg Cup Women Final
Hibernians stroll comfortably to a back-to-back success
Hibernians continued on their success in the same competition last year whilst also registering their ninth triumph in the 19th edition of the women cup.
The Paolites literally closed off the series in the first half of the frist game as they were head over heels a Depiro side which were suffering immensely the absence of their import player who returned home in late January. Try as they might, Depiro could not contain the Hibs offensive machine who pounded the offensive key with consistency and opened a big first game lead which was then controlled with ease in the second leg merely 48 hours later.
Hibernians win the Louis Borg Cup 153-91 in aggregate
Hibernians 82 – Depiro 43
(18-4, 28-7, 22-8, 14-24)
Hibernians: E. Micallef 2, E. Cassar 6, K. Calleja, S. Brincat 4, B. Agius 3, J. Abela 3, S. Abela 11, A. Simmons 41, N. Farrugia 3, H. Al Tumi, K. Caruana 2, L. Duncan 7
Depiro: Ni. Agius 12, G. Mifsud 14, C. Camilleri, S. DeMartino 5, D. Said Hollier 4, M. Scicluna, N. Hili 2, C. Ciantar 6, A. Mifsud, E. Cassar
Referees: Z. Dobrosavljevic, N. Azzopardi, C. Xuereb
Depiro 48 – Hibernians 71
(2-20, 8-18, 19-13, 19-20)
Depiro: No. Agius, Ni. Agius 11, G. Mifsud 12, C. Camilleri, S. DeMartino 12, D. Said Hollier, M. Scicluna 1, N. Hili, C. Ciantar 10, A. Mifsud, E. Cassar 2
Hibs: E. Micallef 11, E. Cassar 3, K. Calleja, S. Brincat 2, B. Agius, J. Abela 2, S. Abela 8, A. Simmons 18, N. Farrugia 3, H. Al Tumi 10, K. Caruana 6, L. Duncan 8
Referees: D. Torok, I. Simic, M. Hraisha
After a slow start by both teams in the first game, Hibs regained their composure and quickly made clear their intentions of trying to shock their opponents and open an early lead.
In fact a 14-0 run, with Amelia Simmons, Sophie Abela and Leanne Duncan sharing most of the points, spearheaded Hibs to a 18-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The tempo remained the same in the second quarter with Hibs extending their advantage much further with Simmons, who notched an impressive 41 points in the first rubber in the series, much in evidence helping her side to a 35 point half time margin, 46-11.
Simmons commented, following this cup success, ‘I am proud of the team for sticking with the game plan and not taking our opponent lightly. We came off a tough loss in the past weekend and it was good for our team to respond strongly in the Louis Borg Cup. It was great to see everyone contribute, whether it was playing defense, rebounding or encouraging one another. In fact each player brought something to the game and this makes this cup win special. We are improving as a team and most importantly we are bonding more together. We know that as long as we stay together we can be successful. ’
A nine point Hibs run characterised the start of the second half and although Depiro had some points off a Nicole Agius trey and a Gabriella Mifsud hoop, the Paolites remained firmly in command and moved to a larger lead.
In the last quarter Depiro managed to find their shooting touch and even won the quarter 24-14 having treys from Agius and G Mifsud as well as hoops from Stephanie Demartino and team skipper Claire Ciantar. However Hibs were still firmly in command and moved towards the second leg with a hefty advantage.
If anyone was thinking of a Depiro comeback in the second leg, such an idea was immediately eradicated as Hibs set up an early superior tempo, including a first quarter 15-0 run withearly hoops from Sophie Abela and Simmons and treys from Duncan and Elena Casasr.
Shorn of the services of an import player, Depiro once again could not easily find their ground in the first half going into the interval 10-38 behind with Hibs having also baskets from their influential guard Samantha Brincat and shooting guard Emma Micallef.
Micallef acknowledged the fact that they were helped with Depiro’s absence but also put an emphasis on the fact that they had ousted the a menacing Starlites side in the semifinal stage, ‘We are extremely happy with this success. Even though the final score might indicate that this was an easy cup to win, the reality was that we managed to beat a strong Starlites side in the semi-finals in order to make it to the final. Thisfinal was a mental game as well, since after taking such a lead in the first game, it was not easy to remain concentrated for the second leg aswell. However the coach helped us to remain concentrated throughout both games and to never put the final result in doubt.’
Coach Tony Camilleri, who took over the side early in January, stated ‘Although thefinal against Depiro turned up to be a one sided affair also due to their lack of a foreigner, one has to keep in mind that we had to eliminate a strong Starlites team in the semis to reach the Final. With thismixture of experienced and young and very enthusiastic players at my disposal, I am confident that, if we keep our focus, we can challenge for every honour this season.’
The last part of the two-legged series was a more balanced affair as Depiro managed to keep at par with their opponents, the latter also taking the opportunity to give court minutes to their young bench players.
At the end of the final, the Hibs clan were presented with the winning trophy from the MBA president emeritus Mr Louis Borg.