FORT WAYNE – You know that bit of breathing room the Mad Ants got Saturday night when Rio Grande Valley beat Erie to bump the Ants into seventh place in the D-League playoff chase? Consider the same wind taken out of the Ants sails.
Whatever brief favor the Vipers (29-15) provided the Ants, they took back Sunday at Memorial Coliseum, where Central Division-leading Rio Grande Valley overcame a 19-point first quarter deficit to beat Fort Wayne 116-107.
With the loss, the Ants (23-22) slipped into a tie for eighth place with Erie in the wild playoff scramble that has four teams – Sioux Falls, the Ants, Erie and Maine – a game and a half within one another for the remaining two spots.
Sometimes youve got to tip your cap and move onto the next game, Ants coach Duane Ticknor said. We reached our goal of winning two out of three in this little mini playoff series over the weekend. Now weve got to get two out of three next week; look at it that way. We keep winning these little series, well put ourselves in a spot we want to be two weeks from (Sunday).
With five games remaining in the regular season, the Ants play at Iowa on Thursday, return for their final two home games Friday (vs. Reno) and Sunday (vs. Texas), then close out the regular season at Sioux Falls on April 5 and at Tulsa on April 6.
The first round of the D-League playoff series is the best-of-three.
The Mad Ants, who had beaten Maine on Thursday and Austin in a triple-overtime thriller on Friday, appeared to be on their way to a weekend sweep by taking a 36-17 lead with 1:53 remaining in the first quarter. The big lead came off a jump shot from Tony Mitchell, who followed his 47-point performance Friday with 37 Sunday. But the Vipers began their long road back by outscoring the Ants 10-2 in the final 1:43 of the period. By the time the first half ended, Rio Grande Valley was within a point, 63-62.
A minute and a half into the third quarter, the Vipers were up by six, 69-63.
But the Ants responded and regained the lead, 81-78. Again, it was another end-of-quarter surge that did in Fort Wayne, as RGV outscored the Ants 11-1 over the final two and a half minutes of the third period.
The fourth quarter was put away by Rio Grande Valleys 6-foot-3 guard Andrew Goudelock, who scored 18 of his 41 points in the final period.
He had a great game, admitted Ants guard Anthony Harris, who had 13 points and eight assists. He got to his spots, and had a big second half.
Ticknor was impressed.
Wow, he said. What a performance by Andrew. He made shots whether we were on him or not. He really did a great job. Theres a reason he was with the Lakers last year, and they called him Mini Mamba. He played great.
Goudelock, who played 40 games with Los Angeles last season, hit 16 of 23 shots from the floor.
While all five Ants starters scored in double figures, the Rio Grande Valleys bench outscored Fort Waynes 46-18.
That shows you what kind of weapons they have, Ticknor said.
Note: Demetri McCamey, a 6-foot-3 guard who played at Illinois, joined the Ants on Sunday. He played 21 minutes and scored nine points. He is taking the roster spot of injured Ants guard Ron Howard.