FORT WAYNE – It was hardly a Christmas night win to celebrate.
Even though the Mad Ants defeated Springfield 109-105 Saturday, the D-League victory was tainted with a late-game injury to 6-foot-11 center Chris Hunter.
Heading back up the Memorial Coliseum floor after assisting on a basket by Darnell Lazar with 3:05 remaining, Hunter collapsed across the Springfield free-throw line. Face down, he slammed the floor repeatedly, then needed the only teammate tall enough to help him off the floor and into the locker room, 6-11 Anthony Kent.
They’re going to get an MRI (today), Mad Ants coach Joey Meyer said. They suspect a partial tear of the Achilles’ (tendon). It doesn’t look too good. Obviously it put a damper on the game.
Hunter, a D-League All-Star center with the Ants two years ago, played 60 games with the NBA Golden State Warriors last season. He missed the first two games this season with tendinitis in a knee, then was nursing a sore leg two weeks ago. Averaging 14 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, Hunter was trying to play his way back into shape when he went down with the injury. He left with 14 points and six rebounds.
It’s like he’s snakebit, Meyer said. He’s starting to come around, and he’s getting better and you think he’ll have about five games before he gets called up (to the NBA), and then this happens, so you just feel real bad for the young man.
While no timetable was set on Hunter’s possible return if the injury is to the Achilles’, Ants team physician Dr. Mark King indicated that it could take a minimum of three months.
The injury was the second to a key member of the Ants (8-4). Starting rookie guard Chris Kramer suffered a knee injury 17 seconds into the Mad Ants’ Dec. 4 game at Springfield and remains sidelined.
As has been the custom in recent games, the Ants got off to a slow start against Springfield (4-8), falling behind 10-0 before Fort Wayne got back in the game.
It was less than a week ago when the Ants fell behind Erie 9-2 when Meyer lit into his team and sparked a fuse that ignited Fort Wayne past the BayHawks. This time the early deficit was 11 before the Ants awoke from their holiday slumber.
Leading 55-54 to start the second half, Rod Wilmont encouraged his team, C’mon, y’all. First five minutes. First five minutes.
This time the start was productive. Getting seven points in 56 seconds from Oliver Lafayette, the Mad Ants dominated the first 6:08, rolling out to a 76-60 lead.
But Wilmont didn’t say anything about the last five minutes. Springfield outscored the Ants 16-6 to close the quarter, but never regained the lead.
Lafayette led the Ants with 27 points, and Wilmont had 24.