Comebacks are in the Mad Ants’ DNA right now.
They came back from 14 points down to snatch a 122-114 victory over Raptors 905, two days after setting a G League comeback record by rallying from 35 points down to beat the Canton Charge 124-118.
“We’ve got a gritty group. Guys play hard at both ends,” Walt Lemon Jr. said. “I would be irritated going against a gritty team like this. It’s a testament to us never quitting. We stay together through thick and thin. We were down by almost 40 and everybody thought we were going to lose the other day. We stayed together and we fought. Today, it was the same thing.”
Lemon had 23 points, 13 assists, 9 rebounds and a career-best 7 steals – he was one rebound short of his second career triple-double – and Fort Wayne (15-15) hit the .500 mark for the first time this season.
“We’ve got to keep pushing to try and play better for a full 48 minutes, that’s it,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said. “These guys don’t quit on our team and I’m really proud of our guys because we started out 1-8 and pushed our way all the way back to .500. We’ve got 20 games left. That’s a lot of basketball to be played. I’m really proud of our guys, but we’ve got to continue getting better.”
Indiana Pacers prospect Alize Johnson had 29 points and 10 rebounds, giving him a triple- or double-double in all 10 G League games he’s played in this season. Daxter Miles Jr. had 25 points for the Mad Ants, who have won 12 of their last 17 games.
An announced crowd of 2,094 attended the game at Memorial Coliseum, where the Raptors (13-19) got 23 points from Henry Ellenson.
Scoochie Smith, who was acquired from the Canton Charge on Sunday for the rights to Omari Johnson, made his Mad Ants debut and figured prominently into the goings on. Smith, who had been playing in Greece, and who had only a walkthrough to prepare for the game, played 21:52 and totaled 10 points.
The Mad Ants went on a 9-0 run to take a 31-21 lead with 1:47 left in the first quarter. The run included Smith finding Miles for a 3-pointer; a Smith finger-roll; a behind-the-back Lemon pass to JaKeenan Gant for a dunk; and a drive through the lane by Ben Moore, who finished with 21 points and nine rebounds
The Raptors tied it at 34 on an Ellenson 3-pointer with 11:10 remaining in the second quarter. Ellenson then gave the Raptors a 37-36 lead with another 3.
Yet another Ellenson 3-pointer put the Raptors up 57-46 with 3:55 left in the quarter. And Ellenson hit a 3 from 42 feet out, after Lemon turned the ball over, just before the halftime buzzer to make it 71-58.
Ellenson was 5 for 5 – all from beyond the arc – for 17 first-half points.
The Mad Ants opened the second half with a 22-12 run – culminating with another behind-the-back pass by Lemon, this time setting up a Johnson dunk – to cut the Raptors’ lead to 83-80.
A Miles 3-pointer with 2:56 left in the third quarter put Fort Wayne up 89-87. But the Raptors’ Devin Robinson tied it at 102 by finishing off an alley-oop with 8:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Mad Ants took control with a Johnson dunk for a 116-111 lead with 2:04 left that was set up by Lemon going end-to-end for the dish.
Both teams were short-handed.
The Mad Ants were without Brian Bowen II, who was called to the NBA’s Indiana Pacers before the game. He was averaging 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds in 19 games with Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne was also without C.J. Wilcox (illness) and Naz Mitrou-Long (ankle).
The Raptors were missing Paul Watson, who was with the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, and Jawun Evans (hamstring). Starting forward Oshae Brissett left the game with an apparent ankle injury after 2:54.
The Mad Ants play host to the Westchester Knicks 11 a.m. Thursday at the Coliseum.