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Ants set wins record, set sights on playoffs

Steve Warden
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Chad Ryan | Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne’s Brandon Wallace, center, puts up a reverse layup in front of Reno’s Samardo Samuels on Friday at the Coliseum.

FORT WAYNE – The Mad Ants had a cozy 18-point lead midway through the fourth quarter when guard Demetri McCamey barreled over a Reno player for a charging foul, prompting Ants coach Duane Ticknor to shout “dammit,” quickly followed by a 20-second timeout that he changed to a full one because he had a lot to say.

“It never ends, whether you’re a coach or a player,” Ticknor said after the Ants’ 106-86 win Friday at Memorial Coliseum. “If you quit learning, you better retire.”

The Ants are hardly ready to end the 2012-13 season.

Having won nine of its last 12 games, Fort Wayne (25-22) not only set a franchise record for wins Friday but solidly remained in the NBA D-League playoff picture. No longer are the Ants the team on the bubble for the eighth and final playoff berth. They moved into the No. 7 slot, a half-game ahead of Sioux Falls (24-22), whose .522 winning percentage is .001 point ahead of Maine (25-23, .521). Erie (24-23) is also in the hunt.

“(It’s) a feather in the cap to our players, but it’s not where we want to be,” Ticknor said of setting the franchise record. “We’ve said it all along. We’ve set higher goals than to just win 25 games. We’re very happy where we’re at.

“I thought it was a team effort. We had contributions from everybody up and down the lineup.”

For the fourth consecutive game and 15th in the last 20, rookie forward Tony Mitchell led the Ants in scoring, this time with 25. But there was help all around. Brandon Wallace scored 16 points and had 15 rebounds. Anthony Richardson and Sadiel Rojas had 14 points each, with all of Rojas’ points coming in a fourth-quarter surge. And McCamey, filling in for injured guard Ron Howard, added 11.

The Mad Ants had squandered much of their 17-point, third-quarter lead when Reno (15-30) got within 78-70 with 11:01 still to play.

Then came Rojas, the 6-foot-4 guard from Oklahoma Wesleyan who was the 2011 player of the year when he led the NAIA in scoring with 26 points per game.

Rojas drained a three from the right corner to begin a 16-0 run that peaked when a Wallace free throw hiked the Fort Wayne lead to 94-70.

“Game over,” Ticknor said.

Except there was still teaching to do when the 6-foot-3, 200-pound linebacker-type McCamey got called for a charge.

“The message was slow down, execute, quit trying to do it by yourself,” Ticknor said. “He’s a young point guard that played the first half – 17 minutes – and had zero assists. He’s got to learn to distribute the ball. We’re happy to have a guy like that who can step up and shoot, too, from the point guard spot.”

Note: Former Mad Ants point guard Walker Russell Jr., who was traded to Reno for Anthony Richardson, played for the first time in the Coliseum since the trade. Russell played 22 minutes, had six points and two assists.

stwarden@jg.net

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