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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, February 07, 2019 2:40 pm

Gray leads Mad Ants past Go-Go

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Rob Gray got his first start for the Mad Ants, in the wake of the surprising, unexplained release of Tra-Deon Hollins, and he made it count today.

Gray had 30 points – he converted 9 of 19 shots including one that gave Fort Wayne a two-point lead late in regulation – and he totaled six assists and six rebounds in a 121-118 overtime victory over the Capital City Go-Go at Memorial Coliseum.

“I was 3 for 10 from 3-point range, so maybe I wish I could have made a couple more 3s and been a little more efficient,” said Gray, a rookie. “But I’m glad we were able to squeeze out the winner. We’ve got an important one tomorrow (against Windy City) and we’ve got a quick turnaround.”

(Video of Gray's game is above.)

Alize Johnson had his whopping 18th double-double in 22 games with the Mad Ants – totaling 23 points and 19 rebounds – as Central Division-leading Fort Wayne (18-15) wrapped up its fourth victory in five games.

“Right now, I feel like it would be a good time for us to gain momentum,” Gray said. “We haven’t really had a good streak. It’s been win two, lose two, win one, lose one, win four out of five, then lose three out of four. We’re sitting in first in the division and it would be a good time to put it together and start playing our best basketball.”

Capital City (18-15) was paced by Quinton Chievous’ 24 points.

Gray drove, stopped and hit a shot from the elbow to give Fort Wayne a 114-112 lead with 10.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but Capital City’s Duje Dukan, a former Mad Ants player, tied it with a turnaround shot from the paint that trickled in with 2 seconds left.

Fort Wayne had a chance to win it but Omari Johnson’s shot clanked out at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime in front of an announced crowd of 4,761 on Education Day.

Approximately 32 schools from as far as Marion came for the 11 a.m. game between two of the G League’s top teams.

Omari Johnson’s 3-pointer from the corner got things going for Fort Wayne in overtime, giving it a 117-114 lead, but it didn’t last and Darel Poirier’s put-back dunk made it 118-117 Go-Go with 42 seconds remaining.

Davon Reed answered with a dunk for Fort Wayne, which got a big offensive rebound from Stephan Hicks to set it up for a 119-118 lead with 18 seconds remaining.

Capital City’s Chris Chiozza tried to drive for the winner against Alize Johnson with 4 seconds remaining in overtime but his shot slipped off the rim.

Omari Johnson had 18 points for Fort Wayne.

“I was really happy with how the guys were calm. They gave clear messages to each other. I was really happy we pulled it off in overtime,” said Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey, whose team has won back-to-back morning games, after beating the Long Island Nets on Monday in Brooklyn, New York.

In the wake of Hollins’ quizzical release – neither the Mad Ants nor Hollins have given any reason for his Wednesday break from the team – Gray got the start at point guard. Gray took full advantage early by making 4 of 6 shots in the first quarter with three assists, though the Mad Ants trailed the Go-Go 33-26.

“He’s been working. He’s been our hardest worker on the team. He’s really grown since Day 1 of training camp and we definitely need him to help us win these games,” Gansey said.

It was a physical game that saw a couple of shoving matches – including one between Fort Wayne’s Demetrius Denzel-Dyson and Capital City’s Isaiah Armwood, and both coaches receiving technical fouls from referee Jenna Schroeder – and a fast-break dunk by the Mad Ants’ Reed set up by a half-court pass by Hicks trimmed the Go-Go’s lead to 45-40 with 6:47 remaining in the second quarter.

That was followed by a long-range Alize Johnson jump shot and a Gray 3-pointer that tied it at 45 with 5:37 remaining.

Ike Nwamu’s 3-pointer, on the heels of a missed Gray 3, put Fort Wayne up 56-53 with 2:51 remaining in the second quarter. And the halftime lead for Fort Wayne was 66-58, paced by Alize Johnson’s 19 points and 13 rebounds.

The Go-Go wouldn’t fade, though, and a 3-pointer by former Butler player Kellen Dunham with 7:59 remaining in the fourth quarter cut Fort Wayne’s lead to 1 with 98-97 remaining in the fourth quarter. And Pe’Shon Howard’s 3-pointer tied it at 100 for Capital City.

Howard hit another 3 for a 110-105 lead with 3:13 remaining.

jcohn@jg.net