ITALY — Italy earned another opportunity to break into the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' Top 25 Poll after beating Cayuga High School 78-52 at Italy High School Gymnasium and remaining in the hunt for a district title.
The (17-5, 4-1) Gladiators first chance came before a 76-75 loss to Kerens High School, the No. 9 boys' 2A team in Texas, on Jan. 6. Italy's response to the defeat was to roll through its next two opponents and outscore them 168-106 in eight quarters.
They used nearly every player on the roster — from Keith Davis II to brother duo Kendrick and Kenneth Norwood to Kevin Johnson to David DeLaHoya — to offensively dominate opposing defenses. Against Cayuga, however, it was the combination of Davis II, Johnson and Kendrick that was the tip of the proverbial spear.
Led by Davis II's 23 points, 19 from Johnson and 10 from Kendrick, the Gladiators bolted to a 44-22 first half lead and held the Wildcats to nine points in the second quarter. Cayuga's leading scorers, who combined for 38 of their team's 52 points, were held to 17 points in the first 16 minutes.
Seniors DeLaHoya (7 pts), Kenneth (7 pts), Christian Lightfoot (6 pts), Jeremiah Thompson (4 pts) and junior Clay Riddle (2 pts) added to their leading trio's scoring punch and scored 11 of the Gladiators' 34 second-half points.
The Gladiators hit a total of nine 3-pointers during the game, nearly more than their last two contests combined. They may need that type of deep-threat accuracy against LaPoynor High School and a high-octane Flyer offense scoring 60.2 points per game and 73 in their last two.
They also have the advantage of using Friday's open, no-play date on their schedule as added rest and practice time.
Italy is among the few TABC unranked teams in UIL 2A basketball with five or fewer overall losses and one or fewer district losses. To put those numbers in perspective, LaPoynor, which the Gladiators will face at 8 p.m. Tuesday at LHS Gymnasium, is 13-8 overall.
No. 1 Muenster (17-5), No. 4 Clarksville (17-6), No. 15 Grapeland (19-5) and No. 21 Big Sandy (15-6) have five or more losses and are undefeated in district. Italy's one district loss came against a top-10 ranked opponent and came via a one-point decision.
Marcus S. Marion can be reached at for story ideas or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter @MarcusMarionWNI.