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Clint Keller | The Journal Gazette
Mad Ants’ Walker Russell Jr. is defended by Iowa’s Curtis Stinson.

Ants charge back

Mad Ants coach Jaren Jackson had the perfect response to a wild ’70s night overtime win over Iowa.

“Just another ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ ” Jackson said.

Horrid basketball for the first half turned torrid the rest of the way, as the Ants overcame an awful half for a 121-117 victory over the Central Division-leading Iowa Energy at Memorial Coliseum, where the same two teams will reunite at 6 p.m. today.

After giving up two easy buckets at the end of the half, the Ants (5-7) walked into the locker room trailing 55-42. They were outhustled, outmaneuvered and especially outrebounded, 33-17. For 24 minutes, the Mad Ants were the Bad Ants.

“I was disappointed, and I shared my feelings at halftime,” a hoarse and happy Jackson said. “Put it like this: I did not whisper. I did not use a calm tone.”

But out of the locker room and out of the blue came the Good Ants. Not since the halftime act Quick Change hit the floor last week has there been such a mysterious turnaround.

A 10-0 Fort Wayne run got it back into the game at 57-52, and the Ants finally caught the Energy at 63-all on a three-pointer from DeWitt Scott.

And just as the Ants were pulling away and led 88-75 with 8:49 left, back came Iowa (8-2), which had a four-game winning streak snapped and was handed only its second loss of the season.

The critical moment of the comeback came with 13.5 seconds left when Cartier Martin, who finished with 37 points, hit a bank shot three-pointer to send the game into overtime tied at 105.

But then Fort Wayne got a three of its own that turned the tide. With the shot clock running out, Walter Sharpe, the forward on loan from the Detroit Pistons, hit a three with 27.9 seconds to break a 112-point deadlock.

“I just put it up,” he said, shrugging.

And the Ants won in spite of out-fouling Iowa 37-22 and sending the Energy to the free-throw line 52 times.

“The foul discrepancy was incredible,” Jackson said. “I want my guys to play tough defense and slide your feet, and I thought they were doing that. I’m careful not to criticize officials, but that discrepancy was not good.”

Over the last quarter and 4:46 into overtime, Fort Wayne was called for 19 fouls to Iowa’s nine.

Walker Russell Jr. led the Ants with 25 points and 11 assists.