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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
The Mad Ants’ Luke Harangody goes in for a layup in front of Maine’s Omar Reed during the second quarter.
Mad Ants 115, Maine 109

Back home, Ants roll

Defeat division leaders in 1st game at Coliseum in a month

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
The Mad Ants’ Miles Plumlee scores on a dunk during the third quarter Thursday.

It wasn’t enough that the Mad Ants were closing out a 115-109 victory over East Division-leading Maine on Thursday, and that Luke Harangody led the way with 29 points and 13 boards. But Harangody added the comedy relief at the end.

Grabbing a rebound off the right side of the rim in the final seconds, Harangody realized he was about to fall out of bounds. And there, right at waist level and sitting on the court, was Maine’s 5-foot-9 guard Andre Barrett. So just before Harangody stepped across the baseline, he popped the ball off the top of Barrett’s head to maintain possession.

“His butt’s sitting on the end line, so he’s out of bounds no matter what touches him,” Harangody said.

While it wasn’t the pivotal play of the night, it was representative of how the Mad Ants (13-14) took control of the Red Claws (17-11) in the Ants’ first game back inside Memorial Coliseum since Jan. 5 and nine consecutive road games.

By beating Maine for the first time this season in five games, the Ants knocked the Red Claws out of first place in the division. Next up is Canton, which was a half-game behind Maine coming into Thursday.

“We beat one team that’s in first place,” Ants coach Duane Ticknor said. “Now we’ve got the other one coming up on Saturday and Monday, so we know we’ve got our work cut out for us, but real proud of our effort (Thursday).”

The Ants visit Canton on Saturday and play the Charge at home on Monday.

Ticknor particularly was proud of his backup point guard who may not be a backup for long.

“Anthony Harris was absolute dynamite: 17 assists with only two turnovers, playing as many minutes as he had,” Ticknor said.

Harris has stepped in to fill the point guard role since Ron Howard suffered a knee injury last month in Bakersfield, Calif. The 6-5 veteran with the “Mr. Mad Ant” nickname did not dress Thursday, and his status remains uncertain.

“We’re putting him on (injured reserve today),” Ticknor said. “That means he won’t travel with us, and we’re not going to do anything (with him) until he’s healthy. He’s not going to practice or anything. We’re just going to shut him down.”

With Harris leading the way, the Ants ran away from an 85-all score with five consecutive dunks and six out of seven buckets, including the final one that Sadiel Rojas fought off Miles Plumlee on an alley-oop assist from Tony Mitchell.

“It was like a dunkfest for a while,” Harris said.

Guard Darryl Partin added 20 points for the Ants, even though he didn’t play in the final quarter. Partin hit six of the team’s nine three-pointers.

“I was a little worried about how we’d come out,” Ticknor said. “A lot of times, after a long road trip, that first game back home you seem to struggle a little bit, but we really stressed this week, just because we were at home, we couldn’t play with a lack of urgency.”

stwarden@jg.net

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