AP NEWS

Mad Ants honor coach, then win

March 20, 2019

There haven’t been a ton of highs for the Mad Ants this season : they have a 22-26 record with their 105-100 victory tonight over the Wisconsin Herd at Memorial Coliseum : so they took advantage of an opportunity to celebrate something before the game.

Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey was honored with a banner for reaching his 100th victory in four seasons as head coach. He achieved the feat with the 125-117 road victory Thursday over the Capital City Go-Go.

His regular-season record is now 101-97 : that doesn’t include his 9-26 record as interim coach in 2011-12 : and he’s taken the Mad Ants to playoffs in 2 of 4 seasons.

The Mad Ants, who didn’t qualify for the postseason this year, have a 1-3 playoff record under Gansey, including a bye into the Eastern Conference semifinals last year.

A pregame video montage was played, during which Gansey was thanked by former players like Sadiel Rojas, Trey McKinney Jones, Julyan Stone and Walt Lemon Jr., some of whom he helped ascend to the NBA; Indiana Pacers coach Nate McMillan and president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard; and members of Gansey’s family and his high school coach, Pat Donahue.

The Mad Ants also unveiled the permanent banner recognizing Gansey’s 100 victories. It is alongside banners celebrating the team’s 2014 G League playoff and regular-season championships, the 2015 Eastern Conference championship, two division titles and a banner honoring the retirement of Ron Howard’s No. 19.

Conner Henry, who coached the Mad Ants from 2013 to 2015, doesn’t have a banner.

The Mad Ants, who have two remaining games in the regular season, were paced by Alize Johnson’s 20 points and nine rebounds. Omari Johnson had 17 points and seven rebounds. Edmond Sumner added 15 points and eight rebounds in front of 1,950 fans.

The Mad Ants got strong first-half performances from Sumner and Alize Johnson, who had 14 points apiece as Fort Wayne built a 59-57 lead.

The Eastern Conference-worst Herd (12-37) came back, though, and Michael Qualls’ thunderous dunk put it up 77-72 with 4:20 left in the third quarter.

Fort Wayne’s Jovan Mooring was ejected late in the third quarter, with the Herd up 82-79, after a double-technical with Wisconsin’s Xavier Munford. Mooring had 10 points in 10 minutes.

The Mad Ants tied it at 89 when Davon Reed finished off a reverse layup with 8:32 left in the fourth quarter. Reed followed that with a 3-pointer for a 92-89 lead and that was followed by a Travin Thibodeaux dunk to put Fort Wayne up five points with 7:19 remaining.

Ike Nwamu’s 3-pointer put Fort Wayne up 97-94 with 4:30 left, but Nick Johnson tied it with a 3 of his own.

An Alize Johnson scoop off the glass made it 99-97 Mad Ants with 2:35 left, and that was followed by a Thibodeaux reverse dunk set up by a steal and half-court pass from Sumner.

Notes: Fort Wayne’s Rob Gray was out with a foot injury. ... With the NCAA Tournament upon us, here’s a look at Mad Ants players who competed in it during past years: Edmond Sumner played for Xavier in 2016. Xavier made it in 2017, but he was injured and didn’t participate. Davon Reed played in 2016 and 2017 with Miami. Ike Nwamu played with Mercer in 2014. Rob Gray starred with Houston last season. Missouri was in the tournament last year, but Jordan Barnett was suspended. Jared Sam played for Southern against Holy Cross in the First Four in 2016. Travin Thibodeaux and New Orleans lost to Mount St. Mary’s in the First Four in 2016.

jcohn@jg.net