Omari Johnson’s shot at the buzzer led the Mad Ants to a dramatic 120-119 victory over the Erie BayHawks, concluding a wild, emotional night at Memorial Coliseum.
The shot came just after Erie’s Alex Poythress had blocked a Stephan Hicks shot, which came just after Fort Wayne’s Davon Reed had blocked a shot by Poythress at the other end.
Poythress totaled 34 points for the BayHawks, tying Walt Lemon Jr. for the most scored against the Mad Ants this season. Lemon did it with Maine on Nov. 16 in a Red Claws victory.
It looked as if Poythress, a former Mad Ants standout, was going to have a record-book night. But the Mad Ants made some adjustments and they paid off.
Rob Gray got 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter for the Mad Ants. Hicks also totaled 22. Johnson had 20 points ad 14 rebounds for the division-leading Mad Ants.
A crowd of 2,375 attended the game at Memorial Coliseum.
The most points scored against the Mad Ants ever were 49 by Pierre Jackson of the Idaho Stampede on Dec. 14, 2013.
Erie eliminated the Mad Ants from the single elimination Eastern Conference semifinals at the Coliseum last season. The teams met here Nov. 9 with Fort Wayne winning 116-111.
The Mad Ants were without arguably their top two players, forward Alize Johnson and guard Edmond Sumner, who both had been called to the NBA’s Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.
Both players were big parts of the previous meeting between the teams – Sumner scored 22 and Johnson 20 – so their losses were felt tonight.
Poythress led Erie to an early 29-25 lead by making five of his first eight shots, including a thunderous first-quarter dunk, on First Responders Night. The jerseys worn by the Mad Ants were auctioned off to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne.
The BayHawks continued to dominate in the second quarter – John Gillon’s 3-pointer gave them a 51-38 lead with 3:09 left – and Poythress had 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting by halftime.
But the adjustments made at intermission helped; Poythress had only two points in the third quarter, on 1-of-6 shooting, and the BayHawks’ lead was 97-87.
A Hicks put-back, on the heels of a Hicks 3-pointer, got Fort Wayne within three points at 105-102 with 6:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. A Gray 3 tied it at 105 and Gray’s floating shot through the lane put Fort Wayne up 112-11 with 3:10 left.
The back-and-forth quarter continued; a Davon Reed put-back got Fort Wayne within one at 119-118 with 34 seconds left.
Notes: Former Indiana University star Calbert Cheaney is an assistant to Erie head coach Noel Gillespie. … Both Gillespie and Fort Wayne coach Steve Gansey got technical fouls. … The Mad Ants play host to the Agua Caliente Clippers at 7 p.m. Monday at Memorial Coliseum.