Stephenville - The Italy Gladiators faced the No. 1 ranked Melissa Cardinals in the Class 2A Region II final on Saturday and when the contest ended, Melissa took the 74-42 win to advance to the state tournament in Austin.
Italy finished the year with a 27-8 record as one of the final eight teams remaining in state. It was the third consecutive year the Gladiators made the regional tournament.
The Cardinals (36-1) took an early 6-0 lead and did not look back. The Italy fans never stopped cheering and the Gladiators never gave up even though the stronger Cardinals pulled away early in the first half.
Melissa was one of the most physical teams the Gladiators had faced all year. The Melissa defense effectively kept the Italy shooters off balance and their offense missed few shots. They also dominated the boards.
Jasenio Anderson, who scored a high 29 points against Ponder on Friday, was limited to nine points in the game. Jase Holden, high point for Italy, scored 10 points followed by Heath Clemons nine, Ryan Ashcraft five, Colton Campbell five and Devonte Simmons and Brandon Souder with two each.
Cardinal senior guard, Zach Heimberger, started off strong with 10 points in the first quarter and finished the game with 37.