Ireland 78-48 Malta

Ireland advanced to the semi-finals at the European Championship for Small Countries as group winners after a resounding win over Malta in Cyprus.

An impressive steal from Edel Thornton on the Ireland D in the second minute led to the first score, with Fiona O’Dwyer converting a lay-up.

Ireland’s second score came from a persistent Claire Melia, who scored the lay-up from an offensive rebound.

Impressive shooting from Malta via Kristy Galea and Samantha Maree Brincat kept them in contention.

Fiona O’Dwyer rounded out the quarter with a pair of converted free throws to leave Ireland ahead by seven.

Ireland were first off the blocks again in the second quarter, after O’Dwyer scored a lay-up assisted by Melia.

The support play from Melia continued for the next score, after she assisted Claire Rockall with another lay-up. Melia continued to impress after she made a turnaround jump shot under pressure a couple of minutes later.

Malta made their first basket after three minutes thanks to a lay-up from Claire Ciantar.

A steal and a lay-up from Dayna Finn stood out as one of the best scores of the quarter, and Ireland led by 14 points at half-time.

Ireland stretched their buffer to 21 points in a third quarter where defence dominated.

Malta showed intent in the final quarter, scoring a hook shot in the opening play, but a free throw from Melia and a lay-up from Clarke set the tone once more for Ireland.

Hannah Thornton made a steal late in the quarter to set up a Sorcha Tiernan three-point jump shot, with an Aine McKenna assist.

McKenna then finished the game off in style when she stole the ball in the Ireland half, made the driving lay-up, drew a free, and made the ensuing free throw.

Ireland will face Cyprus, Kosovo or Luxembourg, in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Ireland: Michelle Clarke (8), Aine McKenna (4), Dayna Finn (9), Claire Rockall (2), Rachel Huijsdens (10), Grainne Dwyer (4), Edel Thornton (5), Fiona O'Dwyer (6), Claire Melia (19), Hannah Thornton (2), Sorcha Tiernan (5), Aine O’Connor (4)

Malta: Sophie Abela (2), Kristy Galea (14), Mikela Riolo (3), Samantha Maree Brincat (6), Maria Bonett, Stephanie De Martino (7), Cristina Sollami, Claire Ciantar (4), Julia Xerri (1), Sasha Lecuyer, Josephine Grima (8), Christina Curmi (3)