FORT WAYNE – Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell had been able to practice with the Mad Ants only once before being put in the starting lineup Saturday night.
Both played pretty well considering – Siva had 24 points, while Mitchell had six points and 10 rebounds – but their debuts were spoiled by a 107-102 loss to Rio Grande Valley in front of 2,025 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
That snapped a five-game winning streak for the Mad Ants (6-6), who took Olek Czyz and Sadiel Rojas out of the starting lineup to make room for Siva and Mitchell, rookies taken in the second round of this year’s NBA draft and sent down to Fort Wayne by the Detroit Pistons on Thursday.
That’s life, Mitchell said of only having one practice. We just tried to approach it as a challenge and be great at it. Just go out there and play hard, that’s all we tried to do. Even though we came up short, we’ll be ready to play Monday (against Sioux Falls at the Coliseum).
The Mad Ants, who also got 24 points from Ron Howard, had a 19-point lead in the third quarter against arguably the D-League’s best team, but they coughed it up.
The one thing we were concerned about with this team, RGV, is if you get a little bit loose with it on offense, it just feeds into exactly what they are good at, Fort Wayne coach Conner Henry said. Down the stretch in the fourth quarter, they put five shooters on the floor. We didn’t take very good shots for about a four-minute stretch and looked kind of stagnant. For that reason, mainly, we paid the price.
The Mad Ants had a chance to tie it with eight seconds remaining, but Trey McKinney-Jones missed a 3-pointer. McKinney-Jones had 16 points.
It felt great to get a chance to go out there and play, Siva said. It was good to get to go out there and get up and down the court with a great group of guys. Unfortunately we lost, but I felt we played hard and we competed.
Rio Grande Valley (12-2) was led by Robert Covington’s 27 points and Troy Daniels’ 22.
We’ve got a great group of guys. They’re buying in on the defensive end, Henry said. They enjoy playing the game and showing up to work every day. Winning helps, but that’s part of this whole process. We’re proud we won five in a row and we had this game, we felt, and I think we had a really good game plan. But you turn the page.
The Mad Ants’ record doesn’t include the season-opening game at Texas, which was lost by one point but was successfully protested by the Mad Ants. They were incorrectly assessed a technical foul for calling a timeout they didn’t have, after being misinformed by the scorers.
The D-League announced Saturday that game will be made up Jan. 7 following the Showcase games in Reno, Nev.
The game will resume with 0.9 second remaining in the fourth quarter and the score tied at 99. Fort Wayne will inbound the ball in the back court, at the foul line extended. Players who were in the original game will retain their foul totals, but players added to the roster since Nov. 22 will be eligible to play with no fouls.
Notes: Rojas had a face shield on because he aggravated a previous nose injury. Siva was limited to 28:40 of play because of a wrist injury that took him out much of the second half. According to D-League officials, the play in Thursday’s 114-89 victory over Reno, during which McKinney-Jones’ streak of successful free throws was halted at 31, was legal. Because of the European rules used, players can tip balls out of the cylinder, just not through the hoop.