FORT WAYNE – Once Tony Mitchell got off the bench, got out of his in-game slump, got active and got hot, the 6-foot-8 NBA D-League all-star forward put the Mad Ants on the shoulders of his No. 18 jersey and carried them to a 119-110 double-overtime victory over Springfield at Memorial Coliseum on Friday.
Sent to the bench three minutes into the game with three fouls in 48 seconds – and stayed there until halftime – Mitchell had seven points at the end of a 103-all regulation.
Overtime was a result of a Brandon Wallace put-back with 7.8 seconds left, and it was Mitchell who had the initial missed shot.
He would rarely miss again.
His bucket and two free throws with 4 seconds left in the first overtime tied the game at 107.
And then the dam burst. Mitchell drained a three from the right wing, then another more than a minute later, and finally, with 44.4 seconds left, hit another three from up top that even sent the normally poker-faced Mitchell into a celebratory combination of flex and dance.
Once he hit the first two, you knew the third one was going in, Ants coach Duane Ticknor said.
By then, the Armor (13-22) had been pierced.
I was just shootin’, said Mitchell, who scored 16 points in the six minutes of overtimes to finish with 23. I was just trying to get my team some scoring. When Ron (Howard) went down, we needed somebody to step up and take some shots.
Howard did his share of stepping up in the first half. Without Mitchell, Howard scored 22 of his game-high 27 in the first half, when he helped the Ants (17-19) build a 17-point lead.
But Springfield took over, especially in the third quarter when the Mad Ants couldn’t shoot it (10 of 31 from the floor) or hold onto it (five turnovers).
And with the Ants down 101-95 with two minutes remaining in regulation, the outcome didn’t look promising for Fort Wayne or its 4,472 fans that came to watch.
Yet in the game that appeared to be won, then seemingly lost, then finally won, Ticknor reeled off its heroes.
There were a lot of guys who stepped up, Ticknor said. Chris Porter, I thought, was a big difference-maker. He made big shots; took three charges; he does all the little things that help you win games. He also scored 17 points.
Sadiel (Rojas) didn’t score but had 12 rebounds. Ron got us going in the first half. Then Tony in the overtimes was phenomenal.
Said Mitchell in the joyous locker room, I didn’t want to lose.