FORT WAYNE – The Mad Ants are a victory away from reaching a place that was hard to imagine in the franchise’s first five years – the D-League Finals.
The Mad Ants opened the semifinals Thursday with a 113-111 victory over Sioux Falls thanks to Tony Mitchell’s off-balanced bank shot with 4.2 seconds to play at Sioux Falls, S.D.
The team returned to Fort Wayne about noon Friday, and the Mad Ants will have the first of two chances to close out the three-game series at 7:30 tonight at Memorial Coliseum.
Game 3, if necessary, is set for 7 p.m. Monday, and the games will feature $1 beer and soft drinks.
It’s got to be a good, special feeling for (team owner John Zeglis) and (president Jeff Potter) and all of the principal owners, coach Conner Henry said as the team bus was 35 miles outside of Fort Wayne on Friday afternoon.
And then the fans, who’ve gone through a lot of tough seasons, and Steve (Gansey), my assistant, and Zac (Thiele), the trainer, who have been here through a lot of years that haven’t gone so great. I’m happy for everybody. The group has really played well together all year. We’ve had a wonderful year, this year, and we’re one more game from going to the finals.
It was hard to see the Mad Ants vying for a title when they went 17-33 in their first season in 2007-08 and followed that with a 19-31 campaign.
Fort Wayne started to improve, going 22-28 in 2009-10, then missed the playoffs in 2010-11 when it lost the tiebreaker for the final playoff spot to the Texas Legend after going 24-26.
The team had its worst season, going 14-36 in 2011-12, only to rebound next season with the franchise’s first winning record, 27-25, and a playoff appearance.
The Mad Ants were swept in the first round by Santa Cruz last year.
But the stage was set for this year’s 34-16 season that netted the Mad Ants the Eastern Division championship and the top seed for the playoffs, which they used to sweep their handpicked first-round opponent, the Reno Bighorns.
And now with the finals one victory away, Potter said he is looking forward to an even bigger reward.
I used to think if it ever got to this point I would just be so happy, but it hasn’t quite come, Potter said.
I just keep wanting more, selfishly for the franchise, but for these players and these coaches. They have given so much.
I would love to see them get the ultimate payoff and get three more wins and bring home a championship.