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Second half comeback propels Malta to gold
GIBRALTAR (FIBA Women's European Championship for Small Countries) - Malta overturned a 10-point halftime deficit to claim gold in Tercentenary Sports Hall. Ireland finished second, Moldova took the bronze.
Malta stepped up the defence in the second half of the Final after Ireland had been leading 39-29 at the break, but managed to only score 20 more points in the final two quarters. Malta took the lead with a 22-11 third quarter and ran away with it 16-9 in the fourth period to get the 67-59 success.
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.
De Martino led all scorers with 16 points. Christina Grima finished with 15, while Josephine Grima and Vella each added 14 points for Malta, who won their first gold at the Championship since 2010.
Ireland took home silver medals for a fourth time, the first three coming from 1989 to 1993. Rockall led the team in scoring with 14 points in the final.
Moldova won the battle for third after a 66-50 triumph against Andorra. Ala Gavrilita (25 points, 11 rebounds) and Natalia Burlacova (23 points, 10 rebounds) were too much to handle for Andorra's defence. Gibraltar finished in fifth, winning their final game 61-47 over sixth-placed Wales.
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.