The Journal Gazette
Friday, February 07, 2020 1:00 am

Mad Ants 131 Westchester 112

Mad Ants cruise to climb above .500

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

For Ben Moore, it was a season high in points. For the Mad Ants, it's a season high in winning percentage.

Moore made 12 of 17 shots for 30 points Thursday, and he added nine rebounds and six assists, as the Mad Ants defeated the Westchester Knicks 131-112 at Memorial Coliseum.

Fort Wayne (16-15), which has won seven of its last eight games, and 13 of 18, is above the .500 mark for the first time this season.

“Ben was awesome,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said. “I knew he was going to have a good game because his agent sat courtside, was right in front of us. It's just one of the little things that go a long way. No, he had a great mindset. ... He's got to continue to be aggressive for us. Since we got him (Dec. 12), the winning percentage speaks for itself (as we're 13-5 since then).”

Whereas the Mad Ants' previous two games had featured comeback victories after big second-half deficits – they were down 35 points to the Canton Charge and 14 to Raptors 905 – this time Fort Wayne got an early lead and didn't waver.

Alize Johnson had 18 points and nine rebounds, the first time in 11 G League games this season he had neither a triple-double nor double-double.

The Mad Ants, who got off to a franchise-worst 1-8 start, are one game back of Grand Rapids for the third and final wild-card spot in Eastern Conference with 19 games left.

“I think we were moving the ball a lot on offense. It was really hopping. It wasn't sticking to one side, so that really helped us out a lot,” said Moore, adding that the Mad Ants' 35 assists (11 more than Westchester) showed that good things happen from ball sharing. “It's just camaraderie amongst each other. We really want to see each other shine, so we're willing to give it up to get a better shot.”

The Mad Ants had anticipated about 5,000 kids attending the 11 a.m. game though school field trips for Education Day, but inclement weather forced the closure of area schools and most weren't able to attend. Attendance was announced as 4,842, but it was actually in the hundreds.

“(On Wednesday), D.J. McCall, JaKeenan Gant and myself went to the Boys & Girls Club and just hung out with them. A lot of those kids were excited about coming to the game and it stunk that they couldn't be there,” Gansey said, “especially when it's 11 a.m. and (you want) 5,000 kids to help wake up our players (after) we've had a film session at 8 a.m., which is tough. It's always great for these kids to look up to role models like D.J. McCall.”

Naz Mitrou-Long, who hadn't played since Dec. 13 because of an ankle injury, had seven points and six assists.

“He's important, his leadership and his voice, offensively and defensively,” Gansey said. “Just talking and getting guys in the right spots, sharing the ball, guys like playing with Naz. He had a minute restriction and had to play under 20 minutes; it was getting him comfortable and confident and he did a good job.”

Brian Bowen II and Daxter Miles Jr. had 16 points apiece. C.J. Wilcox and Walt Lemon Jr. had 12 each.

Ivan Rabb's 25 points led Westchester (16-17). Fishers native Zak Irvin had 15.

Note: Kids who were supposed to attend the game but couldn't can attend a future Mad Ants game and get a food coupon. Questions can be directed to the Mad Ants' office at 260-469-4667.

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