Mad Ants’ win thing of beauty
A smile came to the face of Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey as he said: “It’s beautiful basketball when it’s flowing like that.” Unfortunately for the Mad Ants, that smile hasn’t been there as often as usual this season because that basketball has suffered from inexperience and inconsistencies.
But on Monday night, despite giving up the first nine points, the Mad Ants cemented an impressive 126-110 victory over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Five Fort Wayne players scored in double figures, led by Stephan Hicks’ 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting in front of 2,299 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
“That just shows we are very unselfish,” Hicks said. “We don’t really care : it doesn’t really matter for us : who is scoring, as long as everybody’s touching the ball and we’re getting open looks.”
Hicks and Rob Gray, who had 23 points, combined to go 8 of 13 from 3-point range on a night the Mad Ants were 16 of 34 (47.1 percent) from beyond the arc.
The performance came on the heels of a 113-94 road victory Saturday over the Oklahoma City Blue, so the Mad Ants (8-7) have won back-to-back games for the first time since they were 3-1. Now they head to Las Vegas for the G League Showcase : an annual event in which league teams play in front of NBA executives and scouts : to face Salt Lake City on Thursday and South Bay on Saturday.
“This feels great. We’re building momentum going into the Showcase,” Hicks said. “If we want to be a good team, we’ve got to string together multiple wins. We’re 2-0 over our last two and we’ve got to keep it up.”
The Mad Ants remained without Edmond Sumner (hamstring). Ike Anigbogu, who had sat out Saturday with a finger injury, lasted only 2:52 before coming out because of the ailment.
However, rookie Alize Johnson was returned Monday afternoon from the Indiana Pacers and put together his eighth double-double in 10 G League games by scoring 22 points with 14 rebounds and five assists.
“I think I bring energy,” Johnson said. “I want to get everybody going and they do a good job of getting me involved. I just want to continue to get everybody fired up, right from the beginning of the game, as much as possible.”
Davon Reed added 21 points for Fort Wayne, Omari Johnson had 14 and Tra-Deon Hollins had nine points with 10 assists.
“One of the things we preach every day is unselfishness,” Gansey said. “Guys know their roles and tonight, and in our previous game against OKC, they really played their roles. Rob is going to go in there and score. T-D had 10 assists and only one turnover. Everyone is doing their part on this team and continuing to play for each other.”
Rio Grande Valley (9-8) got 21 points and 11 rebounds from Bruno Caboclo, a former Mad Ants player, while Brandon Sampson had 21 points. The Vipers were felled by 19 turnovers, eight more than Fort Wayne.