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Mad Ants look sharp, beat Canton

The Mad Ants won their fourth straight game, 88-85 over Canton on Dec. 22, 2013.

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
The Mad Ants’ Olek Czyz, right, blocks the hand of Canton’s Arinze Onuaku as he puts up a one-handed jumper in the second quarter at Memorial Coliseum.

Mad Ants stay hot, climb back to .500

The Mad Ants have won four straight games – including back-to-back victories over the previously one-loss Canton Charge – to get back to .500 and show they could be a factor as the D-League season develops.

Yep, much has changed in the past eight days.

“I think we’ve always been confident. We had a lot of close games. It was just a matter of time before we came together,” said Trey McKinney-Jones, who had 19 points for the Mad Ants in an 88-85 victory over Canton on Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.

Ron Howard led the Mad Ants with 20 points, a night after they won 106-102 in overtime at Canton, Ohio.

“Those close games that were losses earlier in the season have turned into close games that were wins,” said McKinney-Jones, who was 4 for 4 from 3-point range in front of 1,862 fans.

It seems that coach Conner Henry, in his first season with Fort Wayne, is seeing his plans come together – just a little later than he’d hoped. The key has been making sure the offense is diversified and not just all about Howard.

“We kind of saw some film and realized that we needed to do a better job sharing the basketball,” Henry said. “Everybody gets to touch it and everybody has a little bit more energy at the other end of the floor. So, that was the main message and it’s starting to sink in. And I think everybody is having a lot more fun now.”

Kevin Jones paced Canton with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Arinze Onuaku and Robert Hite had 14 apiece.

The Mad Ants (5-5) were down 23-16 late in the first quarter, but Alfred Aboya’s put-back at the buzzer started a run that got them the lead.

A 3-pointer by Bennie Lewis III, who is from Fort Wayne, cut the deficit to two and then free throws by Sadiel Rojas and Lewis tied it at 23. A Kyle Randall 3-pointer, followed by a lay-up from Randall and two from Chris Porter, put the Mad Ants ahead 35-25 with 6:59 remaining in the second quarter.

The lead was cut to four points in the third quarter, but Howard dashed the run for Canton (8-3) with a 3-point play. He drove to the basket and was fouled, but a blind shot as he fell to the floor went in and the free throw made it a 63-52 Mad Ants lead with 3:57 remaining. Howard’s 3-pointer as the shot clock expired on the next possession made it 66-54.

That lead would be propelled to 17 points, and Canton was clearly frustrated; it got four technical fouls for arguing with officials. But the Charge got within two points before a Howard steal and layup for an 84-78 lead cemented it in the fourth quarter.

The Mad Ants released guard Anthony Harris, who had averaged 7.4 points and 3.1 assists, but had been passed on the depth chart by Randall. Randall had one of his finer games Sunday – scoring 10 points in 23.4 minutes after coming in with averages of 4.4 points and 18.8 minutes in five games.

Olek Czyz also had 10 points for Fort Wayne. Rojas had six points and 10 rebounds.

“Canton had the best record in the conference and they’re a very structured and disciplined team,” Henry said. “I feel like we matched up well with them going in. That being said, we had to play well. “

Notes: Fort Wayne’s Chris Hunter missed a second straight game with an undisclosed injury. He is averaging 8.8 points and 4.5 rebounds, after missing nearly two years because of injuries to both Achilles tendons. … The Mad Ants also played without Titus Robinson.

jcohn@jg.net

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