The Fort Wayne Champs, a basketball team made up of former Mad Ants plays, are a step closer to a winner-take-all prize of $2 million thanks to a 93-76 victory over the Peoria AllStars on Saturday in Peoria, Illinois, in their first game of The Basketball Tournament.
Matt Bouldin, who played last season in South Korea, led the Champs with 25 points. Travis Leslie, who was with the Mad Ants last season, had 20 points fresh off playing in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
The Champs, seeded sixth in the Midwest region, play Sunday against third-seeded Always a Brave, a team of former Bradley players who will be on their home court in Peoria and have speedy former Mad Ants guard Walter Lemon Jr.
If the Champs win today, they will advance to the round of 16 in Brooklyn, New York.
The Champs, formerly known as Ants Alumni, made it to the TBT semifinals in 2015 and lost in the first round last year.
Bouldin, one of several players part of the Mad Ants team that won the 2014 D-League championship, made 11 of 16 shots and added seven rebounds. Leslie was 6 of 10 from the field, including 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range, and had seven rebounds.
Stephan Hicks had 14 points and Anthony Harris had 13, as the Champs shot 57.1 percent from the field, including 67.7 percent shooting in the second half.
The AllStars, an 11 seed, were paced by Lawrence Alexander’s 22 points. Down 44-33 at halftime, the AllStars opened the second half with a 22-18 run before the Champs regained control.
Coached by former Indiana University and Mad Ants player Rod Wilmont, the Champs excelled in the paint, outscoring the AllStars 54-38 and out-rebounding them 40-34. Fort Wayne outscored Peoria 23-9 on fast-breaks.
Always a Brave was led in its 68-63 victory over Mid American Unity by Marcellus Sommerville’s 17 points. Lemon had 12 points.