Midlothian – After a first round bye in the playoffs, the Italy Gladiators knew that they could not take anything for granted. On Friday night Italy secured the Class 2A area championship by defeating the Corsicana Mildred Eagles 64-37.

 Heath Clemons gave Italy an early 5-0 lead with two steals followed by two baskets and a free throw. He scored 10 of his 13 points in the first quarter. The Gladiator defense executed the press well and its offense capitalized on turnovers.  When the first period ended, Italy had a comfortable 21-6 lead.

Eagle Nic Shimonek came into the game averaging 17 points per game, but the Italy defense did its job and held him to only three points.

 With 2:25 left in the half, Colton Campbell scored Italy’s first points of the period with a long three.

With 1:10 on the clock, Italy was driving to the goal when Shimonek stole the ball and headed for the basket. Italy’s Jasenio Anderson retaliated with a steal, drove down court and was fouled by Cameron Burnham. Anderson hit 1-of-2 from the charity stripe to put Italy up 25-19.

Hayden Pritchett dropped in a lay up to cut Italy’s lead to four before Devonte Simmons caused a Mildred turnover which gave the ball to Italy with one second left in the half. Anderson inbounded to Jase Holden who hit a much needed three at the buzzer to give the Gladiators a 28-21 halftime lead.

 The Gladiators came alive when they took the court in the second half as Anderson scored 19 of his 20 points in the second half.

In the first minute of the second half, Dozier hit two threes to cut Italy’s lead to one but Italy turned up the heat on offense and ended the quarter on top 50-33.

Italy’s defense tightened in the final period and allowed Mildred only four points while adding 14 to their side of the board. When the final buzzer sounded, The Italy Gladiators had claimed the area championship to advance in the playoffs.

Anderson was 10-of-11 at the free throw line and high point for the Gladiators with 20.

Also scoring for Italy were Heath Clemons 13, Jase Holden 8, Larry Mayberry 6, Colton Camptell 5, Devonte Simmons 4, De’Andre Sephus 4 and Cole Hopkins 4.

Scoring for Mildred were Kevin Dozier 18, Daniel Folsom 7, Hayden Pritchett 5, Cameron Burnham 4 and Nic Shimonwek 3.

Italy will face the winner of the Sunnyvale/Hearne contest this week in regional quarterfinal action.

 The second quarter was all Mildred as the Eagles outscored Italy 15-7. Early in the quarter, the Eagles went on an 8-0 run to pull within seven.