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Mad Ants
vs. Maine
When: 7 p.m., today
TV: MyTV
Webcast: www.fortwaynehoops.com

Mad Ants face key stretch in playoff push

– Just before he laced up his shoes for Wednesday morning’s practice, point guard Anthony Harris was adamant that, heck yes, he was keeping close watch on the D-League standings. With the Mad Ants a game out of a possible playoff spot and three critical home games staring them down, why wouldn’t he?

“You need to pay attention to it,” Harris said. “If you don’t pay attention to it, how do you know where you’re at? How do you know where everybody else is at if you don’t pay attention? You’re just out there playing.

“That works for some people, but I think the end result, that’s not like having a goal. If you’re not setting a goal or setting a standard, how do you know where you’re going?”

Eight games remain in the Ants’ D-League regular season, and three of them will be in rapid succession, beginning today when the Ants (21-21) face Maine (23-22) at 7 p.m. Austin (23-18) then arrives for a 7:30 p.m. game Friday, and Rio Grande Valley (26-15) will be at the Coliseum for a 5 p.m. start Sunday.

Four teams – Maine, Sioux Falls (22-20), Erie (23-21) and the Ants – are jostling for the last two available playoff berths. As far as Ants’ first-year coach Duane Ticknor is concerned, the playoff push has begun.

“We felt like we started our playoffs last week,” Ticknor said. “We’ve kind of divided it into little series – two out of three, two out of three, two out of three. That’s kind of our goal. Obviously we’d like to win all three, but we think if we could win all the playoff series, we’ll be where we want to be at the end.”

Although the Ants have won five of their last seven, their most recent outing was a 107-80 loss at Springfield, whose 17-25 record is the fourth-worst in the league.

“I think Sunday was a good lesson for us when we came out and didn’t play well, proving that anyone can beat anybody, especially if we’re not ready to play,” Ticknor said. “It was one of those days where we couldn’t catch the ball, we couldn’t pass the ball, we couldn’t shoot the ball. Every loose ball went to them. It was just one of those days. It kind of proved a point to them that you just can’t take a day off at this stage of the season.”

Forward Brandon Wallace said the loss – a game in which the team shot 33 percent – could be a springboard into the next few games.

“For the most part, when you play bad, you want to come out and play well the next game,” Wallace said. “If anything, it’s an eye-opener. But with this group of guys, I don’t worry too much about that.”

stwarden@jg.net

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