The Mad Ants clung to a lead most of the night, just as they have been clinging to dwindling playoff hopes for weeks. They emerged victorious tonight, defeating the College Park Skyhawks 116-112 at Memorial Coliseum, and can only hope that their quest to make the postseason turns out as well.
The NBA’s Indiana Pacers assigned Alize Johnson to the Mad Ants before the game. It was the 12th time they’ve sent Johnson to the G League this season. In 16 Mad Ants games prior to tonight, he averaged 21.7 points, 13.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He had 20 points tonight.
Walt Lemon Jr. was back in the Fort Wayne lineup after missing four games for paternity leave. Brian Bowen II was with the Pacers.
Lemon had 25 points and six assists. Stephan Hicks had 30 points, two off his season best, and eight rebounds as Fort Wayne (19-22) won for the second time in the last eight games.
The Mad Ants came into the night three games back of the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They have nine games left.
College Park (20-21) was paced by Charles Brown Jr.’s 23 points and Cat Barber’s 22 points and 11 rebounds, but it lost for the fifth time in the last seven games.
The Mad Ants were up 11-10 and then went on a 24-11 run, culminating with a Naz Mitrou-Long 3-pointer, to take a 35-21 lead at the end of the first quarter. Hicks had 14 points, on 5-of-5 shooting at that point.
The Mad Ants’ lead was down to five at 56-51 at halftime.
Lemon had eight of Fort Wayne’s first 10 points in the third quarter, as it clung to a 66-60 lead. A Fort Wayne possession that began with a Ben Moore steal ended with a Moore hook shot for a 78-73 lead with 3:10 left in the quarter, and then Daxter Miles Jr. made it 80-73 from long range.
A Johnson 3-pointer gave Fort Wayne some breathing room with a 91-82 lead and 9:16 left in the fourth quarter.
A Jordan Sibert 3-pointer cut Fort Wayne’s lead to 111-110 with 56 seconds left. Moore answered from the paint, thanks to a spinning pass from Lemon.