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Mad Ants jam their way to win

The Mad Ants put on a show against the Bakersfield Jam at Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 12, 2014.

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
The Mad Ants’ Ron Howard drives between Bakersfield’s Jared Cunningham, left, and Ike Diogu in the first quarter Wednesday.

Ants prep for change behind strong bench

– The lineup is about the change for the Mad Ants.

So they’ll need more performances like the one they got Wednesday from Tony R. Mitchell, who had 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting off the bench in a 118-103 victory over the Bakersfield Jam at Memorial Coliseum.

“T came in with really good energy, and I hope he realizes that whether he starts or comes off the bench, it’s the same and it’s really about working your minutes whatever you get,” Mad Ants coach Conner Henry said. “He gave us a great lift tonight.”

Mitchell was 5 of 6 from 3-point range.

“I think I prepared well this week, getting my legs up under me a little bit better and getting my wind a bit better,” Mitchell said. “And I thank my teammates for finding me when I was open.”

According to Mad Ants president Jeff Potter, all three of the NBA players in the lineup – Orlando Johnson of the Indiana Pacers, plus the Detroit Pistons’ Peyton Siva and the other Tony Mitchell – are returning to their respective teams today.

So the Mad Ants (18-12), who had lost two of three games before Wednesday, will have a different lineup tonight at the Coliseum against Sioux Falls (19-11).

“We’ve still got to suit up and still have to play,” said Tony R. Mitchell, the D-League’s reigning Rookie of the Year. “It doesn’t really matter who’s down here. We’ve still got to play and get wins. We’ll be having some guys getting out of here. It was good having them down and can’t wait to get them back, but we know we’ve got to take care of business, regardless of whether they’re here or not.”

In the course of a 24-13 run, which put Fort Wayne up 42-31, Tony R. Mitchell had 15 points in myriad ways – a fall-away shot off the glass, a trio of 3-pointers and a dunk.

Trey McKinney-Jones’ underhand pass set up Chris Porter for a layup and Fort Wayne’s biggest lead – 18 points – at 51-33 with 7:24 remaining in the second quarter. But Bakersfield (12-20) clawed its way back to a 2-point deficit at halftime, led by James Nunnally, who had 31 points in the first two quarters.

With 1.8 seconds remaining in the half, he intercepted Darnell Lazare’s baseline inbounds pass and made a shot from midcourt, which was reviewed by officials for several minutes before it was deemed to have taken place before the buzzer to cut the Fort Wayne lead to 62-60.

The Mad Ants re-established their lead with back-to-back 3-pointers from Johnson and Siva, giving them a 78-69 lead with 6:15 left in the third quarter. And the tempo continued in Fort Wayne’s favor; Ron Howard stole an inbounds pass underneath the basket and fed it to Tony R. Mitchell for a layup and a 103-90 lead with 7:51 remaining in the game.

In the second half, Nunnally had 12 points to finish with 43.

“We were being more physical with him. He’s a good shooter, and he was getting open (in the first half),” said Howard, an all-star, who had 20 points. “We tried to do a better job of not letting him be open and being physical with him, and it worked.”

Johnson had 23 points. Siva had 16. The Pistons’ Mitchell had 4 points and eight rebounds.

jcohn@jg.net

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