Basketball: Malta in the final of the European Small Nations Championship
(16-12, 12-15, 11-8, 20-17)
After beating them by a difference of basket, Malta had to face Azerbaijan again, in the semi-finals. Another difficult encounter, the visitors seeing their naturalized American player, Jordan Davis, absent due to a back injury.
Malta had Aaron Falzon in their ranks, after his injury in the victory against the same Azeris, but he remained on the vbench.
A solid defense helped in this Malta win, in a low-scoring game, due to both defenses’ control of the opposition’s attacks. Malta were in the lead for most of the game, but the Azeris were not that far behind and continually threatened to overturn the score. Malta had to dig in again to overcome their opponents, but the Azeris were also guilty of lax play, which helped in the circumstances. Overseas Maltese players were on double numbers but had to rely on the tandem, David Bugeja and Nathan Xuereb, to supply them with the goods. Samuel Deguara made his presence felt in the area, and Nelson Kahler and Tevin Falzon provided the extra firepower, both up close and from the perimeter of the area. Haciyev was the main danger for the hosts, as he continued his impressive performances, and Pashayev and Hajiyev made revealing triples, to keep their side in the hunt, but the Maltese held on and opened their lead in the stages finals of the match, after the Azeris managed to equalise.
The final, against the strong Armenian team, may turn out to be a classic, with the Armenians a little above, given the way they got rid of the Andorran team, in the other semi-final.
Malta: J. Zammit, D. Bugeja 4, A. Felice Pace, M. Brincat, M. Scerri, N. XCuereb 4, T. Falzon 16, I. Felice Pace, A. Falzon, K. Xuereb 3, N. Kahler 14, S. Deguara 18
Azerbaijan: E. Poladkhanli 2, A. Mammadov, O. Haciyeva 17, E. Shirzadov, U. Turgut, B. Tasher, S. Shirzadov 3, A. Hajiyev 9, Z. Pashayev 16, J. Akbarov, A. Hamzayev 5
Referees: A. Perciavalle (ITA) C. Mavisu (TUR) I. Esteve (AND)
Armenia 93 Andorra 66 (24-19, 28-15, 26-14, 15-18)