Sixty-seven years to the day after the NBA played its All-Star Game at Memorial Coliseum, we saw at the same venue just how different professional basketball has become.
Starting with a Walt Lemon Jr. 3-pointer to begin the scoring Monday, there were 49 shots from beyond the arc, something that didn't exist in the NBA until 1979. The big men displayed beyond-the-paint range. And the pace of play was frenetic, if not with a high shooting percentage.
The Mad Ants defeated the Capital City Go-Go 113-105, led by Lemon's 25 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and five steals.
“Tonight, especially being at home, we wanted to take care of home court and be aggressive, as far as scoring the ball toward the end,” said Lemon, whose Mad Ants (10-14) had dropped their previous three games in close fashion.
In another sign of the times, all three referees were women – Ashley Gilpin, Angelica Suffren and Amy Bonner – and that wouldn't have been heard of in 1953.
“I'm happy with how we finished and how we played better in that second half,” said coach Steve Gansey, whose team led 48-47 at halftime and trailed by two with 8:35 remaining in the game.
Lemon scored 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the fourth quarter.
“Walt needs to be aggressive every single time,” Gansey said. “If you look at our win-loss record and then look at the stats that Walt has, if Walt doesn't have a good game then we're probably not going to win that game.
“He's got to use his quickness – catch and go, he's one of the quickest guys in the league – and he's got to use that to his advantage and to our advantage. He had some nice finishes there in that second half.”
Fort Wayne, which shot 42.2% from the field, got 21 points from Daxter Miles Jr. Ben Moore added 17 points, 20 rebounds and four shot blocks.
“Everybody is chipping in,” Lemon said, “but for me, it's a mindset of putting my head down and using my speed and athleticism. I use that to my advantage to get my teammates open and tonight my teammates made shots. That opened the lane up for me, as well.”
Capital City (10-13), which shot 41.6%, was paced by Admiral Schofield's 24 points. Jalen Jones added 19.
The Coliseum was home to the Zollner Pistons, who moved to Detroit in 1957. When the 1953 NBA All-Star Game was in Fort Wayne, the Pistons' Andy Phillip and Larry Foust helped the Western Conference to a 79-75 victory in front of 10,322 fans – well above stated capacity.
On Monday, attendance was 1,316 for the Mad Ants, who have carried the mantle of professional basketball in Fort Wayne since 2007, winning a championship in 2014.
The Mad Ants played without Naz Mitrou-Long (ankle), though Brian Bowen II returned from a herniated disc injury to total nine points and eight rebounds. Fort Wayne native D.J. McCall, back from a concussion, had five rebounds.
Notes: The Mad Ants are holding an essay contest for students in middle school or high school to celebrate upcoming Black History Month. The winners will get prize packs that include tickets, a personalized basketball, a tablet and an appearance on television. For information, go to pacers.formstack.com/forms/bhmcontest. ... Stephan Hicks played his 200th regular-season game with the Mad Ants.