WEST — Italy started its playoff run in full throttle as the Gladiators breezed by the Chilton Pirates, 87-73, Monday.
The Gladiators are in the postseason for the first time in four years, but the high-octane strategy enacted by Italy solidifies that the Gladiators are in the playoffs to make noise.
John Isaac led all scorers with 24 points, but three other Gladiators joined him in double figures. Although Italy was rampant on offense, its full-court press defense harassed the Pirates into an abundance of turnovers.
“We don’t have much size,” Italy coach Kyle Holley said. “We try to create a lot of turnovers and havoc with our speed. We will get in trouble if we play a half-court game, because we don’t have the big guys to bang in the paint. We just try to use our speed and be the best we can with that.”
Italy’s inexperience in the playoffs was inconspicuous, as the Gladiators played aggressively from the get go. With Italy down, 7-4, Darrin Moore splashed a three-pointer, and stole the inbounds pass before dishing it off to Jasenio Anderson who was fouled. Anderson, who finished the game with 20 points (11-for-13 from the free-throw line) made both charity shots to start a 7-0 Gladiator run.
Italy was hindered by turnovers early in the second quarter, but Isaac aided the slumping Gladiators. The junior guard went on a tear, going on a 10-0 personal run at one point.
“I was feeling really hot,” Isaac said of his streak. “I was just in the zone.”
In the second half, Isaac continued his rapid fire. The six-footer made the Gladiators’ first two buckets. Italy later captured its largest lead of the game, when Moore made his third three-pointer of the game to put the Gladiators up, 60-38.
With Italy up by such a large margin, its starters took an extended rest midway through the third quarter. Sophomore guard Heath Clemons scored eight points including two three-pointers to keep Italy’s offense steamrolling.
“The offense kind of comes and go,” Holley said. “We shot the ball well tonight. We made some mistakes there in the end but we are a young team. Overall, I was pleased with our performance tonight.”
The Gladiators continue their playoff run this weekend when they face off against Menard at a time and date to be determined.