Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants’ Je’lon Hornbeak drives for a layup against Grand Rapids’ Bronson Koenig during the second quarter Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.
Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Jarrod Uthoff of the Mad Ants and Derek Willis of the Grand Rapids fight for tip off.
Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Walt Lemon Jr. drives against Zeke Upshaw and Bronson Koenig of Grand Rapids during the 2nd quarter at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Ben Moore of the Mad Ants dodges Grand Rapid’s defense for two points during the 1st quarter at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Trey McKinney Jones pops a 3 pointer against Landry Nnoko of the Grand Rapid Drive during the 2nd quarter at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Ben Moore of the Mad Ants drives against Jon Horford during the 1st quarter at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Sunday, December 31, 2017 1:00 am
Mad Ants 118 Gr. Rapids 117
Ugly or not, Ants happy to get win
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
A win is a win.
But the one the Mad Ants got Saturday night – 118-117 over the Grand Rapids Drive at Memorial Coliseum – was undoubtedly more meaningful than the other 11 the Mad Ants have this season because they had been mired in a terrible slump, having lost four straight games and eight of nine.
Put simply, the Mad Ants needed this victory. Badly.
“This was very important. We had been on a little losing streak and it was good to get it together, no matter what the win looks like. It was good to get back to winning,” said Ben Moore, who made 6 of 8 shots for 16 points with eight rebounds on a night the Mad Ants (12-10) used all 10 players and got meaningful contributions from all of them.
Walt Lemon Jr. had 30 points. DeQuan Jones scored 20. And Stephan Hicks also had 20, including the basket at the end of a 2-on-1 break with Jones that tied it at 109 with 3:53 left in front of 2,735 fans on 90's/Nickelodeon Night.
On the next possession, Trey McKinney Jones' drive put Fort Wayne up 109-107. And Moore's 3-pointer with 2:14 left was crucial for a 114-110 lead.
“Our attitude and everything has kind of been down over the last couple of weeks,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said. “We wanted to come out and battle for 48 minutes. They're a good team, and they're playing really well. It was great that we just got over that hump tonight and got that win. I don't care how it was or how it looked. This team needed a win bad, and we got it tonight. And it was at home, which was good, too.”
There were certainly some nervous moments after Lemon coughed up the ball while driving to the hoop with 12 seconds left.
Even though McKinney Jones swatted the ensuing pass out of bounds, the Drive had 6.8 seconds to in-bound the ball and try to overcome the 118-117 deficit. But Marcus Thornton missed a 3-pointer, and K.J. McDaniels missed the long-range putback.
“The difference was the energy. Especially on defense, we just brought a lot more energy,” Moore said. “Even when we made mistakes, the energy would bring us back, the talking and things like that. It would help us get back. ... Today, it felt more together. We were all on the same page. We were all talking and encouraging each other and it felt more together out there.”
Grand Rapids (11-12), which came in having won 4 of 5 games, was paced by Landry Nnoko's 27 points. Thornton had 21 points that included 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. McDaniels had 18 points and Kenneth Smith had a triple-double with 18 points, 17 assists and 10 rebounds.
Skylar Spencer, who played 3:40, was the only Fort Wayne player not the score, as the Mad Ants overcame a nine-point deficit. Tra-Deon Hollins had nine points, Jarrod Uthoff had eight points, seven rebounds and six assists, and McKinney Jones and C.J. Fair had six points apiece for Fort Wayne, which plays host to Windy City on Friday at the Coliseum.