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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' coach Steve Gansey during a time out in the first quarter of Saturday's game at the Memorial Coliseum against Canton.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Ben Bentil, of the Mad Ants, dunks the ball in the first quarter of Saturday's game at the Memorial Coliseum with Canton's Eric Moreland looking on.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette George Niang, of the Mad Ants, drives the ball in the first quarter of Saturday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette George Niang, of the Mad Ants, brings the ball down the court in the first quarter of Saturday's game at the Memorial Coliseum against Canton.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Marquis Teague, of the Mad Ants, drives the ball with Canton's Kevin Olekaibe keeping pace in the second quarter of Saturday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Ben Bentil, of the Mad Ants, goes up for two in the second quarter of Saturday's game at the Memorial Coliseum against Canton.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' Trey McKinney Jones keeps his eye on Canton's Kevin Olekaibe as he brings the ball down the court in the first quarter of Saturday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette 

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' E. Victor Nickerson drives the ball around the defense of Canton's John Holland in the second quarter of Saturday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Ben Bentil, of the Mad Ants, brings the ball down the court in the second quarter of Saturday's game at the Memorial Coliseum against Canton.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Trey McKinney Jones eyes the basket as he keeps away from the defense of Canton's Eric Moreland in the second quarter of Saturday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' George Niang keeps the ball away from Canton's Eric Moreland in the first quarter of Saturday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' Marquis Teague keeps his eye on the basket as he drives the ball under the defense of Canton's Eric Moreland in the first quarter of Saturday's game at the Memorial Coliseum.

Saturday, April 01, 2017 9:40 pm

Unheralded players lead Ants to 3rd seed

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

They were all on the floor – Adam Woodbury, Chris Fowler, E. Victor Nickerson – as the Mad Ants gave the Memorial Coliseum fans a show they didn’t exactly expect tonight.

But a good show it was.

With the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs up for grabs, the Mad Ants prioritized rest and looked to their depth players. They certainly made it interesting and fun, recovering from a 17-point deficit to beat the Canton Charge 111-108.

The Mad Ants (30-20), who are headed to the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, are indeed the third seed and open their best-of-3 playoff series with Atlantic Division-champion Maine at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

Canton (29-21) will face league-leading Raptors 905.

Georges Niang had 32 points and 16 rebounds. Marquis Teague added 19 points.

Back-to-back Niang baskets, including a no-look fall-away shot, put the Mad Ants up 107-104 with 1:08 remaining. Canton’s John Holland had a chance to tie it with nine seconds left, but Niang and Chris Fowler were all over him defensively and the shot fell short.

The Mad Ants are 1-3 against Maine this season. They are 2-2 against Raptors 905.

Not all of the Mad Ants’ lineup decisions were voluntary, not with the Philadelphia 76ers plucking rookie all-star Alex Poythress from Fort Wayne this morning, making him the third Fort Wayne player signed by an NBA team this season. Poythress averaged a team-best 18.5 points with 7.1 rebounds over 46 games, of which he started all but one.

That transaction came a day after the parent Indiana Pacers sent down Niang, a rookie, who averaged 16.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3 assists in his previous five games with the Mad Ants.

As if the Mad Ants’ lineup wasn’t going to look different enough, they decided to rest former NBA players Travis Leslie and Tyler Hansbrough, who had been perhaps the D-League top player since joining it March 1, along with Stephan Hicks and Jordan Loyd.

The other players signed by NBA teams were Jarrod Uthoff, who signed a multi-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks this week, and Ben Bentil, who was back with Fort Wayne from the Mavericks.

Despite the absences, the Mad Ants still fielded a starting lineup that had three players with NBA experience – Niang, Bentil and Teague – along with veteran Trey McKinney Jones and Nick Zeisloft, the rookie out of Indiana University.

Canton, meanwhile, played its big guns like Holland, who had 21 first-half points and 30 total, Cameron Jones and Eric Moreland.

Things started promisingly for the Mad Ants, who went up 23-17 on back-to-back 3-pointers from Niang and Zeisloft. But the Charge went up 38-28 on a Gerald Beverly lay-up with 8:40 remaining in the second quarter, just after a McKinney Jones pass was wasted by Teague tripping over the ball and with it out of bounds.

Consecutive baskets from the paint by Moreland put the Charge up 54-37 with 2:27 left in the quarter.

The Mad Ants, who were down 58-47 at halftime, got hot from long range in the third quarter and 3-pointers by Teague and Zeisloft cut the Canton lead to three at 66-63 with 8:05 left. But the Charge answered with an 8-0 run, culminating with a Mike Williams jump shot for a 74-63 lead.

A Fowler 3-pointer, followed by a Woodbury block and a Woodbury pass through the lane, set up McKinney Jones for a lay-up that cut Canton’s lead to 87-83 with 50 seconds left in the third quarter.

A Fowler bounce pass set up Woodbury for a lay-up with 6:20 left in the fourth quarter, trimming Canton’s lead to 100-97. A Woodbury put-back of a missed Zeisloft 3-point attempt with 4:38 left, cut it to 102-99.

A Niang shot that kissed the glass before going in cut the deficit to one at 104-103 with 2:40 left.

Notes: As part of Fan Appreciation Night, the season-ticket holders’ names were on the Mad Ants’ white-and-red specialty jerseys.

jcohn@jg.net