FORT WAYNE – It was fitting that the ball was in Sadiel Rojas’ hands when the horn sounded and the 2,903 fans cheered and the Coliseum sound system played something other than I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, which is the sound of a game that got away.
But not Friday, when second-year player Rojas held the ball and the clock ticked to zeroes on a 108-101 Ants victory over Iowa.
And now both teams get to do it all over when they play again tonight in Des Moines.
Rojas, a 6-foot-4 guard, was part of the bench brigade that helped the Ants (2-2) to their second straight win. The former NAIA Player of the Year from Oklahoma Wesleyan scored 16 points, had eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals, including a huge heist that all but sewed up the win.
The Ants had broken away from a tie at 101 on three free throws from Walker Russell Jr. and Ron Howard.
With Iowa owning possession at its own end, Rojas intercepted the inbounds pass, which set up a pair of free throws from Russell with 28.1 seconds left.
Our assistant coaches knew the play that Iowa was going to run, and they told me exactly where (Mustapha) Farrakhan was going to go, and I read the play, and I guarded him, and I jumped it and got the ball, so it worked out well, Rojas said. It was the scouts who did all the work.
The players did their share, though, coming back from a 14-point deficit late in the first quarter.
Fort Wayne finally caught Iowa at 41-all near the midway stretch of the second quarter, but Iowa ran out to a 60-52 lead, then 80-75 late in the third. It was a rebound bucket from Rojas with seven-tenths of a second remaining that got the Mad Ants to within three points going into the final quarter.
I don’t care. I don’t even have to shoot, Rojas said. I come in, get team rebounds, play defense. I’m cool with that. Last year I did that all the time; I’m the trash man. I just give energy and do whatever.
While Howard led the team with 21 points, he had plenty of help. Rojas, Darryl Partin and JaJuan Johnson had 16 points each, while Russell had 14 and Mike Anderson had 11.
Note: The Ants acquired 6-foot-8 forward Brandon Wallace on Friday and waived Bernard Toombs, who had scored four points. Wallace, from South Carolina, had six points Friday.