ITALY — Sometimes home is where the winning is.
That was never truer for Italy High School, which won its first home game of the season Thursday against Midlothian Heritage High School during the first round of the Italy Invitational at IHS Gymnasium.
"It was good for the boys to get that win in front of their home crowd," said David Ervin, the head IHS boys' basketball coach. "Sometimes winning isn't winning unless you can do it at home. It almost didn't happen for us, too. We kind of started off the game slow and got started after that rough 18-4 start. We weren't playing our brand of basketball — suffocating ball handlers with pressure defense and creating turnovers. Once we started sealing the perimeter, we began to get into our groove."
The (7-4) Gladiators, which beat the Jaguar junior varsity boys basketball team 60-51, won their third straight game after victories against Nazarene Christian Academy and Hillsboro High School.
Much like Tuesday against Hillsboro, Keith Davis, who scored 25 points and pulled down six rebounds during the 56-55 win against the Eagles, was a driving force against Midlothian Heritage. He scored a third-best 11 points adding to 5-foot-8 senior guard Kevin Johnson's 16 points and 6-foot-5 senior forward Christian Lightfoot's 14 points.
After being outscored 18-15 in the first quarter, the Gladiators outpaced Midlothian Heritage 33-21 in the next 16 minutes — including a 21-point third quarter scoring barrage led by Johnson.
By winning the first round of the tournament, Italy earned the right to play 3A Grandview High School at 12:30 p.m. Friday in round two of the Italy Invitational. Grandview's Zebras (3-3), which share a district with Italy's Ellis County sister cities Maypearl and Palmer, have lost three straight games to Muenster, Nacoma and Tolar High Schools.
They have allowed at least 50 points in each of those games and lost by an average margin of 26 points. They also have lost at least three games by 30 or more points.
"We're going to have to settle into what we do best," Ervin said about his boys. "That's pressuring the ball and creating turnovers. That's how our offense works — defense creates offense. Grandview's tough and in a higher classification, but they aren't invincible. If we can play our brand of basketball, we'll be able to make that back-to-back wins on our home court."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter @MarcusMarionWNI.