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The Journal Gazette

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants guard Walter Lemon Jr. goes up for a basket Friday at Memorial Coliseum against defending-champion Raptors 905, while he's defended by Kaza Keane, left, and Richard Amardi, right. 

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants forward C.J. Fair is given some encouragement by coach Steve Gansey as he comes to the bench for a rest Friday at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants guard Stephan Hicks goes skyward for a basket Friday at Memorial Coliseum as he's defended by defending-champion Raptors 905's Aaron Best, left, and Kethan Savage, right.

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants guard Walter Lemon Jr., right, goes up for a layup while ducking his head to avoid the arm of Raptors 905's Bruno Caboclo, a former Fort Wayne player. 

Friday, November 10, 2017 10:00 pm

Rookie stands out as Mad Ants beat champs

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

It was a breakout game for Je’lon Hornbeak, the rookie from Monmouth, who totaled 18 points as the Mad Ants emerged victorious 104-77 tonight over defending-champion Raptors 905.

He had 15 points in the first half, as Fort Wayne built a 57-40 lead for the Mad Ants, who never trailed in front of an announced crowd of 4,994 on Military Appreciation Night.

Walter Lemon Jr. kept up his torrid pace for the Mad Ants by scoring a team-best 21 points. Stephan Hicks added 17.

The Mad Ants (2-1 overall) have won both their games at Memorial Coliseum, where they play eight of their first 11 this season, but they play the Windy City Bulls at Hoffman Estates, Illinois, on Saturday.

Hornbeak, 23, averaged 11.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals last season at Monmouth and was discovered by the Mad Ants at a Sept. 23 open tryout in Fort Wayne.

The Mad Ants won 2 of 4 games last season against Raptors 905, which went on to win the G League championship it its second year of existence, going 39-11 in the regular season and 6-1 in the postseason.

Raptors 905 was 1-1 coming into the night and fresh off a 91-65 victory over the Long Island Nets in which it set a franchise record for fewest points allowed.

It was led by Lorenzo Brown’s 14 points.

The Mad Ant came into the night with a 1-1 record, having lost 115-99 in the season opener to the Nets on Saturday and won 106-96 in the home opener against the Greensboro Swarm on Tuesday. Lemon had led the charge, averaging 29.5 points in those games, his first two with Fort Wayne since 2015-16.

The Mad Ants got off to a strong start tonight, taking a 12-6 lead when Stephan Hicks finished off a fast-break with a dunk and a foul on Bruno Caboclo, a former Fort Wayne player.

Hornbeak, who had played a total of 15 minutes in the first two games, led the first-half scoring with 9 of 9 free-throw shooting. Hicks had 13 points, on 6-of-7 shooting, at the break.

Lemon’s 3-pointer from the corner with 1:20 left in the third quarter gave a 79-58 lead to the Mad Ants.

Note: There was an on-court proposal during a late-game timeout. Not only did she say yes, but Lemon was the first one to congratulate them.

jcohn@jg.net