Sometimes, the way you win is as important as just winning. On Sunday, the Mad Ants were up by as many as 39 points on the D-League’s worst team, the Delaware 87ers, but Fort Wayne endured all the fouling and tenacity from the 87ers and emerged with a 128-111 victory at Memorial Coliseum.
As much as we get up, we know nobody (on the other team) is going to give up. It’s a professional game with professional athletes, and we know they’re not going to let down. We just have to try and maintain, no matter how big the lead is. You have to maintain, said Fort Wayne’s Tony Mitchell, who had 26 points in his first game after returning from the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
Sadiel Rojas had 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Mad Ants, while Ron Howard had 15 points.
Guys see, from top to bottom, our roster is pretty darned balanced compared to other teams in the league. And we have a really deep bench, said coach Conner Henry, whose Mad Ants have positioned themselves as a top title contender with nine games remaining in the regular season.
The Mad Ants (27-15), who have won 6 of 7 games, and 10 of their last 12, lead the East Division by 2 1/2 games over Canton (25-18) and have the second best record in the D-League behind Rio Grande Valley (28-13).
It’s nice when we come out and everybody is unselfish and everybody is looking to make the extra pass, Henry said. From there, it just flowed.
The Mad Ants opened the game by scoring 20 of the first 24 points; they made 7 of their first 11 shots, including 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range, and Rojas led the early surge with seven points in those first 5 minutes.
The 87ers got back into it, but back-to-back 3-pointers from the corner by Rojas put the Mad Ants up 28-15 with 4:25 remaining in the first quarter.
Mitchell hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a 46-25 lead with 9:59 remaining in the second quarter.
In a play that summed up the dominating first half, Howard stole the ball at center court, drove for a successful layup and got the foul for a 63-33 lead with 5:32 remaining in the half.
I feel like it’s kind of a trap game, but I think we did a good job taking care of business and getting the win. That’s what happened, said Jamaal Franklin, who had 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Mad Ants.
I feel like it’s based on a trap game because we just played them and beat them (122-111 on Friday), but at the same time, when you play a team back-to-back times, they know what you’re going to do. We just played Maine back-to-back and lost to them the second time (March 9).
Delaware was paced by Tiny Gallon’s 34 points and Josh Akognon’s 29 points. The Mad Ants were outscored 68-54 in the second half, but Fort Wayne went 11 players deep in the game.
Trey McKinney-Jones had 13 points for Fort Wayne, while Matt Bouldin had 12.