Even at the late hour, in a maddening Mad Ants game that pushed the pulse rate and the three-hour mark, the bank was open. And did the Mad Ants ever cash in.
A desperate, 25-foot bank shot from the left side sent the Ants into a third overtime, and from there, Tony Mitchell hit a 15-foot game-winner with 5.2 seconds remaining as the Mad Ants claimed a pulsating 106-104 victory over Austin before 3,547 throaty fans at Memorial Coliseum on Friday.
Mitchell, the 6-foot-7 forward from the University of Alabama, scored 47 points to break the franchise’s single-game scoring record of 44 set by former IU guard Earl Calloway five years ago to the night, March 22, 2008.
With second-leading scorer Ron Howard out with a fractured right wrist, Mitchell took over the scoring duties for the Ants (23-21), who climbed to two games over the .500 plateau for the first time this year. It’s also the latest in the season that the Ants have been at .500 or better.
The Ants, chasing their first playoff berth in franchise history, are tied with Erie (23-21) for the final playoff spot. Fort Wayne will be home to Rio Grande Valley on Sunday.
Trailing by four points with 4.9 seconds remaining in the second overtime, a mixture of miracles combined to set the stage for the third overtime.
Lester Hudson’s three pointer with 11.3 seconds remaining gave Austin (24-19) a 104-100 lead.
Brandon Wallace made one of two free throws with 4.9 seconds left to bring the Ants to within 104-101. Austin’s JaMychal Green then missed two free throws with 3.2 left. By the time the Ants got the rebound, 1.8 remained on the clock.
And that set up Anthony Harris’ cross-court in-bounds pass to Mitchell, who buried the bank shot from the left wing, directly in front of the Austin bench.
I know the bank closes early on Friday, so I decided to see if I could make a withdrawal for the fans, Mitchell said with a grin. We had 1.8 seconds left on the clock. I knew if I caught it, I at least got a chance for one dribble and a chance to get it toward the rim. By the grace of God, it went in.
In the third overtime, both the Ants and Toros combined to miss nine consecutive shots. With Fort Wayne owning the ball with 9.8 seconds left, Mitchell caught an in-bounds pass going up the left side of the floor, lost control momentarily, then turned and hit a 16-footer with 5.2 left.
Former Mad Ant Ryan Ayers had a chance to win the game for Austin with a shot from the right corner, but he missed.
That was one heck of a gut check, Ants coach Duane Ticknor said. That was a heck of a basketball team we just played. Tony Mitchell’s performance was off the charts (Friday), but we had a lot of guys step up and do a lot of things.
Mitchell, who played 52: 21 of the possible 57 minutes, was 16 of 41 from the floor, 6 of 15 from three-point range, 9 of 12 from the free throw lie, had five assists, nine rebounds and a steal.
This is the kind of thing that prepares teams onto the next level, and hopefully that will take us there.