FORT WAYNE – Even in another defeat, the optimism is present, and the loyalty runs deep.
The last-place Mad Ants lost their fifth consecutive game 85-77 to Erie on Sunday at Memorial Coliseum, but with 4,054 in the building, the fan base is standing behind their men like a Tammy Wynette song.
Its been a struggle, said Glen Reid, a season-ticket holder and one of the teams minor investors. We thought early on we had a pretty good lineup of guys, and things just didnt work out.
He cited the NBA training camps that pulled four Ants away in December as playing a role in the teams slow start. And losing All-Star Walker Russell Jr., the D-League leader in assists at the time, to the Detroit Pistons put a hole in the team.
But, on the other side, I think the team played hard all season, Reid said. I never saw them give up. They always played hard. Somebodys got to win, somebodys got to lose, but as long as I go home feeling that they played a good game or had a chance, then Im happy. Its been a struggle, but Ill be back next year.
Thats the theme within the Ants (11-31) as they continue a slide that has seen them lose 15 of their last 16 games: next year.
Ron Holle, 73-year-old season ticket holder, will be back next year.
They try so hard, Holle said with a touch of sympathy. I personally have gotten to know the players cause Ive gone to practice and stuff.
You can see that theyre playing better as a team. The guys werent playing together, cause theyre so new. It takes a while to blend. Weve got some good talent on this team right now.
The talent was evident in the first half but nowhere to be seen in the second when the Ants turned a 48-36 halftime lead into a 64-59 deficit going into the last quarter.
Scoring only 11 points in the third quarter, thats not going to win a lot of ball games, Ants coach Steve Gansey said. Offensively during that stretch, we were very stagnant; very stagnant. We didnt get anything.
We came out very well, (and) they werent shooting the ball well, Gansey added, pointing at Eries (22-19) .326 first-half percentage (14 of 43). Shooting 38 percent from the foul line never helps, either – 8 of 21 doesnt help. That doesnt kill us. It was our offensive stretch and they got right back in the game.
Stephen Graham and Darnell Lazare led the Ants with 15 points each. Vernon Macklin added 13 points, but he had 11 at halftime.