FORT WAYNE – Santa Cruz came into Fort Wayne with the best record in the NBA D-League at 9-2 and as the hottest team with a five-game winning streak.
The Warriors leave having lost two in a row to the league’s current hottest team.
The Mad Ants blew away the Warriors 118-90 Saturday for their fourth consecutive win, which matches a franchise best, accomplished four other times, with the last coming in the 2010-11 season.
I don’t care about that, first-year coach Duane Ticknor said. As far as I’m concerned, this team is 4-0.
The Ants (7-10) clung to a 54-47 halftime lead after going up by as many as 18 points in the second period, but then outscored the Warriors (9-4) 64-43 over the final two periods.
It was the second win over Santa Cruz over three days. On Thursday, the Ants beat the Warriors 102-86.
But Saturday had its own, special feel. Orlando Johnson, who scored 25 points on Thursday, was sent back to the Indiana Pacers. And Luke Harangody, who came to the team last week and hasn’t seen a Fort Wayne loss, did not play because of a sore knee.
That just shows you what kind of depth we have on this team, Ticknor said.
Starting in Johnson’s guard spot was reserve Darryl Partin, who didn’t score Thursday and averages 5.7 points per game. Saturday, he responded with 18 points, going 4 of 7 from the floor.
The confidence is high, Partin said. We’re clickin’ defensively; we’re getting all the 50-50 balls. Everybody’s communicating on the court. It’s fun.
Much of the fun came midway through the third quarter, after Santa Cruz got within 74-67. For the rest of the period, bleeding into the fourth quarter, the Ants took off on a savage 26-10 run.
When the Warriors called timeout with 5:58 left in the third after Tony Mitchell had two assists, a three-point play and ignited a fast break that ended with Anthony Richardson’s dunk off a Ron Howard bounce pass, Ticknor sprinted onto the floor to give Mitchell a double low-five.
Seven players, led by Michell’s 21 and Sadiel Rojas’ 20, scored in double figures for the Ants.
The home cooking ended Saturday, though, as the Ants begin a seven-game road trip with a visit to Erie on Saturday.