FORT WAYNE – He hoisted the shot from two or three long strides over the midcourt line, and of course it went in. That kind of night, right?
And so here were the Mad Ants and here was Sioux Falls guard Gabe Pruitt, and here was the clock draining fast at the end of the first half Wednesday.
Score here, and the Ants, who’d trailed by as many as a dozen points, go to the locker room with something like life, down six points or fewer. Don’t score, and it’s still an eight-point game.
Except, oops, here was yet another errant pass, and here was Pruitt stepping in front of it. He launched the win-a-car three. It bedded down just as the horn blared.
It was the signature moment of a listless 106-99 Mad Ants loss that snapped a six-game home winning streak and left head coach Duane Ticknor fuming.
It was a pathetic effort to be honest with you, he said. It was almost like we thought all we had to do is just show up. We’re playing teams that are ahead of us in the standings, and these are really important games, especially after we do such a good job on our long grueling road trip and played well for a couple of home games.
But to lay an egg tonight really, really hurt. This is a team we can really compete against, and the final score was no indication of the game. They controlled the whole game.
They did. Trailing 5-2 less than 90 seconds in, the Skyforce scored the next seven points, and the Ants never got even again. Trailing by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter, they cut it to 10 with a 13-2 surge midway through the quarter, but three straight turnovers launched the Skyforce on a 10-0 run of its own, and that was that.
Just no urgency, just lack of energy tonight, Ticknor said. The first quarter we foul with two or three seconds to go; Didn’t finish quarters, I mean, it was everything. We were just kind of running uphill in mud all night.
The Ants played without leading scorer and rebounder Luke Harangody, which left them no real post offense.
But the real culprit was a ragged floor game that saw them turn the ball over 26 times while dishing just 18 assists.
We turned the ball over too much. Mainly myself, said Ron Howard, who scored 20 points but committed 10 turnovers. And you can’t win ballgames like that.
Tony Mitchell, coming off a 32-point effort in a win over Canton, led the Ants with 27 points. But he, Howard and guard Anthony Harris (13 points) combined for 60 of the Ants’ total while Sioux Falls put seven players in double figures, led by Demetris Nichols’ 22 points.
The Skyforce dropped nine threes, made 14 steals and turned those 26 Mad Ants turnovers into 30 points.
Some days are like that, Howard said. But you’ve got to give them credit. They got the steal and they made the shot. All game, they made all the plays.