FORT WAYNE – Much of the fourth quarter of Friday’s 106-86 Mad Ants victory over Reno sounded as though the Memorial Coliseum P.A. announcer’s voice was stuck on record: Sadiel Rojas – for threeeeeeeeeee!
Four times inside of nine minutes, the 6-foot-4, guard dropped three point shots that were part of the Ants’ runaway win. And then, for good measure, he added a two-point jumper with 24 seconds remaining to kick his fourth-quarter point total to 14.
Rojas is the latest player to spring from the bench to make a heavy contribution to a season-ending run that has placed the Mad Ants (25-22) into serious playoff contention.
With nine wins in their last 12 games, the Ants closed out Friday night with the seventh-best record in the D-League. They were a half-game behind No. 6 Austin (25-21), and a half-game ahead of No. 8 Sioux Falls (24-22). Austin played at Tulsa on Saturday night, and Sioux Falls was at Rio Grande Valley.
With a 5 p.m. tip, the Ants finish their regular season home schedule today against Texas (19-27), which has lost seven of its last 10 games. A berth into the best-of-three first round playoffs would assure the Ants of at least one more home game.
But back to Rojas, it had been quite some time since he scored 14 in one game. The last time he had 14 points was Jan. 10 against Tulsa.
It had been even longer – like never in his two years in the D-League – since he went 4-of-5 from three-point range.
It felt great, said Rojas, who had hit 3 of 21 three-point shots in his previous 11 games. I haven’t been hitting shots or been in a rhythm lately, and it felt real good. I’m excited. They (his teammates) were excited.
These days, everyone with the Ants is excited since they set a franchise record Friday with their 25th win.
It’s been a goal all season, said forward Brandon Wallace of the playoffs. Unfortunately, we started out 3-10, but we’ve got a new group of guys, and since then we’ve been rollin’. We lost Luke (Harangody, with an injury), and that was tough for us, but we still found a way to come together to get this playoff push in the right direction.
The Ants are still getting together.
When we break every time out of the huddle, we yell Playoffs!’ or Believe!’ Rojas said.
We’re really trying to get to the playoffs and trying to do some damage in the playoffs. We’re not just trying to get there; we’re trying to win the thing.