Walt Lemon Jr. had missed four games following the birth of twin girls. But he didn’t miss a step tonight for the Mad Ants.
He had 26 points and six assists – including a huge one in the fourth quarter – as Fort Wayne defeated the College park Skyhawks 116-112 in front of an announced crowd of 2,650 at Memorial Coliseum.
“That’s pretty impressive what Walt did tonight, coming back from being gone for 10-plus days,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said. “He hadn’t really gotten into the gym, in terms of shooting, while he was gone. But he was working out and trying to keep himself ready. … We missed him on the floor. We need him, every minute we can get from him.”
Stephan Hicks had 30 points – two off his season best – and the Mad Ants (19-22) are now 2½ games out of the sixth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot with nine games left in the regular season.
“We just locked in,” Hicks said. “I know we had a lot of careless turnovers, but when we locked in and focused on the game, it was tight at the end. We locked in and focused and got the win.”
Lemon showed his worth after a 17-point lead had been trimmed to one by the Skyhawks, who got a Jordan Sibert 3-pointer to cut it to 111-110 with 56 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing possession, Lemon spun his way through two defenders and dished it to Ben Moore for a basket from the paint to give the Mad Ants needed breathing room.
“They’re one of the best defensive teams in the league. They pressure you, said Gansey, whose team shot a season-best 56.7% from the field. “It was tough getting the ball to the elbow. We didn’t do the little things by just setting a guy up and getting open. Even Walt lost the ball a couple times (toward) the end. We’re not planning on doing that. They’re a good team … but we talk about playing the best 48 minutes.”
College Park (20-21) shot 42.7% from the field. Its 16.1% shooting from 3-point range – it was 5 of 31 – was the worst by a Fort Wayne opponent this season. The Skyhawks, who have lost five of their last seven games, were led by Charles Brown Jr.’s 23 points, Cat Barber’s 22 points and 11 assists, and Mark Ogden Jr.’s 21 points.
Video highlights of Lemon’s night are above.
Brian Bowen II, who was called to the Indiana Pacers, made his first NBA start tonight. In a 108-102 victory over the Chicago Bulls, he was 0 for 4 with four rebounds in 14 minutes.