Midlothian — The Italy Gladiators and the Whitney Wildcats finished the regular season as co-district champions setting up a game to decide seeding only this past Friday in Midlothian. The Wildcats exploded out of the gate and built a 47-20 lead at halftime. During their time of need, Italy repeatedly fed the ball inside to 6’4" 232 lb. senior, Larry Mayberry, Jr., who accounted for 12 of Italy’s 20-points in the first half. The Gladiators were simply unable to match Whitney’s energy early on and could only shave a few points off the Wildcat advantage in the third-period.
Italy picked up their defensive intensity by the fourth quarter with Jamal Lewis, Trevon Robertson, Devonta Simmons and Eric Carson forcing turnovers. Mayberry and Cole Hopkins began to control the boards as Italy outscored Whitney 30 to 17 in the second half. Time was on Whitney’s side, however, and the Wildcats held on for a 64-50 victory.
The outcome earned Whitney the No. 1 seed, a first round bye and an automatic bi-district championship. The Gladiators will enter the playoffs as a No. 2 seed and meet Franklin in a first-round bi-district matchup.
Italy plays Franklin in China Springs, which is the agreed upon neutral site, beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February, 21. The two schools met earlier this year in a football bi-district showdown with Franklin getting the 55-28 win. Perhaps, revenge will be on the minds of the Gladiators and second-year head coach Aidan Callahan as Italy’s four seniors in Brandon Souder, Jase Holden, Mayberry and Simmons attempt to rally their teammates in preparation for the Lions who will be coming off a 78-64 loss to Hearne.