The Force continues to be strong with the Mad Ants, who defeated the Iowa Energy 133-113 on Star Wars Night at Memorial Coliseum, taking over first place in the East Division in the process.
Jamaal Franklin had 31 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds on Saturday, in front of 5,567 fans, as Mad Ants won for the 17th time in the last 24 games.
However, the Mad Ants (23-14) had so many problems putting away Iowa (21-13), they couldn’t have been blamed had they called upon Yoda and Obi-Wan for help.
Ultimately, they didn’t need to turn to the dark side; they just needed balanced scoring.
Ron Howard had 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Tony Mitchell had 21 points and 10 rebounds. Matt Bouldin had 19 points. And Will Frisby and Sadiel Rojas combined for 27 points and 24 rebounds.
I think the coaching staff and probably a few of the players aged a little bit in that third quarter, when they erased our 16-point halftime lead, Mad Ants coach Conner Henry said. But (assistant coaches Steve Gansey and Roman Youngpeter) did a good job in one timeout and gave me good advice defensively, and we got the guys to refocus and we matched up and started to wrestle the rhythm to us.
Darth Vader and Maul delivered the game ball before the opening tip, and the Energy scored nine of the first 14 points.
But a Howard jump shot kicked off a 20-5 Fort Wayne run that culminated with a pair of free throws from the Memphis Grizzlies’ Franklin and a 25-14 lead with 2:09 remaining in the first quarter.
The Energy cut the deficit to four points. But a Mitchell jump shot kick-started another big Mad Ants run to take a 45-28 lead on a thunderous Franklin dunk.
The lead ballooned to 23 points but, yet again, the Energy surged and got within two at 72-70 before a Franklin 3-pointer culled the momentum with 6:21 left in the third quarter. The Mad Ants finished the game with a 40-28 run, led by 10 points from Franklin and nine from Bouldin.