In their seven seasons, the Mad Ants had never taken to the court with a target on their backs quite like they did Friday.
For the first time ever, they were atop the entire D-League.
And even though the Springfield Armor was without star Willie Reed, it played like it wanted to knock the Mad Ants off its mount. Thanks to Tony Mitchell and Jamaal Franklin, that didn't happen.
Mitchell had 26 points and Franklin added 24, as the Mad Ants defeated the Armor 115-104 at Memorial Coliseum.
It was Fort Wayne's sixth win in its last seven games and its 13th in the last 16.
Fort Wayne's all-star, guard Ron Howard, came into the night needing 28 points to surpass Bakersfield's Renaldo Major as the D-League's all-time leading scorer in the regular season. Major, who has 4,252 points, is currently on the inactive list with an injury.
Howard had 16 points and six assists.
When they were idle Wednesday night, the Mad Ants (30-16) clinched a playoff berth for the second time in franchise history; the first time came just last season, when they didn't make it past the first round.
They arrived at the Coliseum on Friday with even more good news: Reed, and his 14.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, was no longer on the Springfield roster.
In the afternoon, the NBA's Sacramento Kings signed Reed, rated by the D-League as its No. 3 NBA prospect, and moved him to their D-League affiliate, Reno.
Mitchell, the D-League's reigning Rookie of the Year, came off the Mad Ants bench late in the first quarter and immediately impacted the game with a 3-pointer on his first shot for a 19-13 lead, then back-to-back dunks on the next two possessions.
In his first six minutes, he had 13 points, including an end-to-end run for a layup and a 30-20 lead with 11:07 remaining in the second quarter.
The Armor (20-27) slowly crept back into the game, tying it at 60 with 8:32 left in the third quarter on Khalif Wyatt jump shot.
The Armor's lead got as large as four points before Mitchell and Franklin, the Mad Ants' lone NBA-contract player (Memphis Grizzlies) took over.
Mitchell's baseline dunk and, on the next possession, 3-pointer put Fort Wayne up 85-84. His steal and dunk with 9:02 remaining in the fourth made it 91-86.
Franklin, who also came off the bench in the game, hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a 97-88 lead with 8:22 remaining.
Mitchell made 10 of 18 shots. Franklin was 7 of 9, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range.
For Springfield, Adonis Thomas had 30 points. Larry Anderson added 29.