FORT WAYNE – There was no whistle, no horn, no buzzer to signify the end of the Mad Ants’ recent practices. Instead, coach Duane Ticknor would clap his hands a few times, yell OK, huddle up, and the players would gather at center court.
As the season wore on, Ticknor gave no long-winded speeches. If there was a theme, or a familiar saying, it was Two-out-of-three. That became the mantra more than anything down the stretch. Two-out-of-three.
Instead of looking down the road to the possibility of the NBA D-League playoffs a month away, Ticknor broke down the final third of the season by having his team focus on winning two of their next three games.
We do that, Ticknor said, and everything else will fall in line.
By winning 11 of their last 15 regular-season games, the Mad Ants not only made the D-League playoffs for the first time in their six-year existence, but they secured the No. 5 seed in the eight-team tournament.
But the two-out-of-three philosophy still exists, more so now than at any time this season.
Because the Ants lost to Santa Cruz 124-118 Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum in the first game of the playoffs, they needed to beat the Warriors two times in two nights to win the most significant two-out-of-three series in team history and avoid elimination.
Game 2 was Saturday night at Santa Cruz.
Remember a month ago when we started these weekend series and started talking about winning two-out-of-three, two-out-of-three, two-out-of-three? Ticknor said. There was a rhyme and a reason behind that. It just wasn’t getting those two-out-of-three (wins), which was very important, but I was trying to set the table for the playoffs.
I don’t do those things out of craziness. We were trying to see the big picture of the whole thing. We’ve basically been in the playoffs for a month now.