Davis delivers game winner! Italy upsets Dallas Gateway 66-65 to own district

Image: Kevin Johnson(5) led Italy with a 20-point night to help the Gladiators overtake district rival Dallas Gateway, 66-65. Italy is now the front runner of the district.

Kevin Johnson(5) led Italy with a 20-point night to help the Gladiators overtake district rival Dallas Gateway, 66-65. Italy is now the front runner of the district. (Barry Byers)

Italy — It was a memorable matchup between the Mighty Italy Gladiators and the Dallas Gateway Gators Tuesday night. Gateway was the home team but is was Italy’s home dome.

The Gators exploded in the opening frame with 5 three-pointers and a 25-point period. Key buckets from David De La Hoya and Kenneth Norwood, Jr. who scored 7-points in the first kept Italy within striking distance.

The Gators hit their sixth three-pointer in the second to lead by 11 at one point. Kenneth Norwood, Jr. erased the Gators’ made three-pointer with one of his own and Kevin Johnson scored 7-points to give him a total of 11 first-half points. Italy’s defensive pressure grew increasingly effective allowing the Gladiators to chip away at the deficit. Gateway added a couple of baskets late to close out the half with a 37-31 advantage.

The story of the second-half would be if Gateway’s three-point production would continue or would they get bogged down and loose their rhythm. It was sure to be an interesting finale.

The third proved to be just as fast-paced as the first-half had been but Gateway only managed 1 made three-pointer to go along with several misses from beyond the arc. Italy took advantage and their relentless offensive attack was proving made 2-pointers were more effective than Gateway’s missed three-pointers.

Italy had fought their way back into the game and managed to tie the score 48-48 with Christian Lightfoot putting in 6-points for the Gladiators in the third. The Gladiators managed to outscore Gateway 17-11 in the period. Italy senior Levi McBride launched a buzzer beater attempt from half court in the closing seconds but the game remained tied heading into the fourth.

The Memorable Fourth:
The final period saw several ties and a couple of lead changes. It was frantic, it was fierce and the Italy fans were fired up and supporting the Gladiators every step of the way.

In crunch time, Jeremiah Thompson created a turnover at mid court and then recovered the ensuing fumble to give Italy control of the ball with 0:50 to play and with Italy trailing 65-64. Italy was unable to score after the timeout but neither was Gateway once they had possession, setting up the grande finale.

With the clock ticking down, Davis crossed over the Gladiator logo at center court and waved a teammate to set a screen. His first attempt to slip into the lane was foiled but Davis regrouped and found an opening. Davis charged to the rim with flare but his layup bounced once, then twice, then bounced off the cylinder.

Gateway’s defense was caught flat-footed as Davis secured the rebound and then quickly spun back toward the front of the rim. As Italy fans collectively held their breath, Davis released his one-handed flip over the lip and it swished in with 0:08 seconds remaining.

The hometown crowd erupted as the shot pushed Italy over the hump to give the Gladiators a 66-65 advantage. Gateway quickly inbounded the ball desperately propelled the ball up the court in hopes of spoiling all the fun. Italy’s defensive pressure chased Gateway off the three-point line but a pass found its way inside to an open Gator who went up for the shot.

Italy pressured the shooter who lost control going up. Simultaneously, the referee stormed out from under the basket to declare the game over with the blaring of the final buzzer fading away. Gateway’s 8 three-pointers and multiple misses did not hold up.

However, the put back by Davis did hold up with the Gladiators finally climbing the mountain against Gateway, who has had the upper hand in the rivalry as of late. Gladiator Nation flooded the court with emotion to celebrate with the players. Good times! The 66-65 win comfortably puts the Gladiators atop the district with one game remaining against Itasca to make Italy’s outright district championship official.

Gladiator head basketball coach David Ervin stated after the game with a smile, “I’m proud of our guys. The just kept fighting.”

The Gladiators will be taking on the Wampus Cats in Itasca on Monday, February 15, starting at 6:15 p.m. The JV Boys game between Italy and Itasca will start at 5:00 p.m.

Gladiator Scoring vs. Dallas Gateway:

Gladiator Points 3-pointer
Kevin Johnson 20
Kenneth Norwood 14 1
Kendrick Norwood 13
Keith Davis 7 1
Christian Lightfoot 6
Ryan Connor 2
Jeremiah Thompson 2
David De La Hoya 2
Micah Escamilla
Levi McBride
Jorge Galvan
Jason Womack

Box Score:

Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
Italy 17 14 17 18 66
Gateway 25 12 11 17 65

Go Gladiators!