FORT WAYNE – Ramon Harris had seen his playing time wane with the Mad Ants, thanks to the influx of NBA players and the return of Tony R. Mitchell, the reigning D-League Rookie of the Year.
Heading into this weekend, he hadn’t played more than 20 minutes in seven straight games, and he even sat for all but four minutes of a loss to Rio Grande Valley on Dec. 28.
I just had to ride through it. I was working out on off days and just trying to get ready for when they needed me, he said Saturday night after a 124-121 victory over the Iowa Energy at Memorial Coliseum.
He hit 7 of 12 shots, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range, finishing with 19 points in 20 minutes. More importantly, he hit the winning shot, a 3-pointer as time expired, to give Fort Wayne its 10th victory in its last 13 games.
Coach put me in a situation where I could get a chance to look at it. Worst case scenario, we’re going to overtime, Harris said.
On the play, Ron Howard, who had a game-high 32 points, penetrated and sent a pass out to Jamaal Franklin, the Memphis Grizzlies prospect, who sent a cross-court pass to Harris for the winner.
We knew Ron would be able to get to the rack – he had been doing it all night – and we relied on him to make a good pass to get it started. That’s what happened, Harris said.
The Mad Ants were without their two Detroit Pistons players, Peyton Siva (wrist) and the other Tony Mitchell (ankle), for a second straight game. They were returned to the NBA after the game.
Trey McKinney-Jones had 22 points for the Mad Ants. Sadiel Rojas had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The Mad Ants suffered their worst defeat of the season Friday, losing 119-90 to Austin at the Coliseum. They hadn’t lost any other game by more than seven points.
The Mad Ants had similar struggles Saturday. A Rojas 3-pointer with 3:46 remaining in the first quarter cut the Iowa lead to one at 26-25, but the Energy immediately answered with a Moses Ehambe 3-pointer, and Fort Wayne coach Conner Henry angrily called a timeout.
The Energy then surged as Fort Wayne’s Kyle Randall coughed up the ball at mid-court, Kalin Lucas took off on a fast break for a 45-35 lead with 10:24 left in the second quarter.
That lead grew to as many as 14, but the Mad Ants fought back and a Chris Porter dunk with 10:39 left in the third quarter gave Fort Wayne its first lead at 66-64.
Things went back and forth until a Porter shot hung on the rim and Rojas made his way through a crowd to slam the ball for a 112-111 lead with 3:36 remaining.
That was a putback on my miss, and it was great. It was terrific, Porter said. Sadiel, you know he’s going to hit the glass anyway, and he was in the right place at the right time.
There was an ensuing technical foul as Iowa argued the play, and a Howard fast break put the Mad Ants up 115-111 with 2:58 left. But Iowa answered and a pair of Lucas free throws with 9.9 second tied it at 121. That cued Harris’ moment.
I knew it was going in before he let it go, Porter said. I believe it my guys every shot they take. That was team basketball. You move the basketball, and the guys found him open on the court.