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  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants' Stephan Hicks readies to pass the ball Friday as he's defended by James Young of the Wisconsin Herd. Hicks finished with a career-high 32 points. 

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants' Stephan Hicks, left, readies to pass the ball Friday at Memorial Coliseum as he's defended by James Young of the Wisconsin Herd.

Saturday, January 05, 2019 1:00 am

Mad Ants 125 Wisconsin 120

Hicks has big night to lead Ants

Scores 32 points, but veteran shrugs off his best scoring night

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Mad Ants' Stephan Hicks is often lauded for his versatility and tenacity on the basketball court.

“He's just relentless getting to the rim, crashing the boards,” teammate Davon Reed said Friday night. “It's not always pretty, but he makes it happen. He plays hard and he deserves all of it.”

Sometimes, Hicks' game develops into something pretty, too, and that's what happened at Memorial Coliseum, where he had a career-high 32 points in the Mad Ants' 125-120 victory over the Wisconsin Herd.

Hicks converted 15 of 28 shots – including a thunderous alley-oop set up by Edmond Sumner – and he hauled in 15 rebounds despite a scary moment in the second quarter when he came down hard on his left wrist, which he had broken when he was in college.

Statistically, it was a career game for the longest-tenured Mad Ant, but Hicks shrugged that off.

“I don't really think that way. Honestly, I think I had a lot of other good games in my career,” said Hicks, in his fourth season with the Mad Ants. “Even though this was my career high, I felt like the numbers don't really show the games. I could have five or 10 points and still have a good game. I'm just blessed and thankful for being healthy and being able to play this game, and for being able to score a career high over 30.”

Hicks' previous career high of 29 points was set Dec. 7, in a 117-111 loss to Long Island. Hicks has been praised this season for his leadership with the young Mad Ants (11-10), who lead the Central Division despite having mostly first- and second-year players, and he's moved into third on the franchise's all-time scoring list. He's 195 points behind Walker Russell's 2,083. Ron Howard is the franchise leader with 4,324 points.

“(Hicks) has been great for us all season,” Reed said. “You can tell he's in a rhythm and a flow and in his element. He's one of the leaders of this team, and we're grateful to have him.”

It was only the second time this season all of Fort Wayne's starters scored in double figures. Alize Johnson had 19 points with nine rebounds, though his double-double streak ended at 11 games. Reed scored 18 points, Sumner 17 and Omari Johnson 14.

Rob Gray added 12 points, all of it coming in the first quarter when he was 4 for 4 to help Fort Wayne to a 36-26 lead, and Tra-Deon Hollins had six points, 12 assists and only one turnover.

Coach Steve Gansey praised his reserve players for sacrificing playing time with Indiana Pacers prospects Alize Johnson, Sumner and Reed around.

“These guys have got great attitudes and it has to be a total team effort,” Gansey said.

In front of 1,937 fans, the Mad Ants wore digital camouflage uniforms that were auctioned off to benefit Erin's House, which provides support for children, teens and families who have suffered the death of a loved one.

Christian Wood scored 30 points and had 18 rebounds to lead the Herd (3-18).

Notes: Before the game, Ike Anigbogu was recalled by the Pacers to get treatment for right knee soreness. Anigbogu, who had averaged 11.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.21 shot blocks in 14 games this season, had also been battling a finger injury. ... The Mad Ants presented a check for $2,055 to the Mad Anthonys Children's Hope House from their jersey auction of “SpongeBob SquarePants” jerseys they donned Dec. 28.

jcohn@jg.net