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The Journal Gazette

Friday, January 19, 2018 11:05 pm

Mad Ants win thriller against Mitchell, Skyforce

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Two of the most exciting players in perhaps the history of the Mad Ants' franchise went head-to-head tonight.

And they didn't disappoint.

Walt Lemon Jr. took control in the fourth quarter, leading the Mad Ants back. Tony Mitchell, who now plays for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, did his usual thing with big shots and big dunks.

In the end, the Mad Ants won 131-130 thanks to a Trey McKinney Jones free throw with 1.9 seconds left, after Mitchell fouled him while he was near the floor and lunging to get a shot off.

Lemon had given the Mad Ants a 130-128 lead by driving through a crowd and scooping the ball of the glass and in with 55 seconds remaining. Mitchell had tied it with a drive along the baseline for a thunderous dunk.

Lemon had 26 points. Teammate Jarrod Uthoff had 28.

Mitchell totaled 31 points for the Skyforce.

An announced crowd of 3,776 was on hand at Memorial Coliseum on Ladies' Night, as the Mad Ants wore pink uniforms that were auctioned off to benefit the Better Business Bureau.

It was the debut of rookie Edmond Sumner, who had torn his ACL almost a year beforehand while he with Xavier. He was still drafted 52nd overall by the New Orleans Pelicans, traded to the Indiana Pacers and signed to a two-way contract that has him splitting time between Fort Wayne and Indianapolis.

The other Pacers player currently on a two-way deal is Ben Moore, also a rookie.

Sumner totaled nine points in 15 minutes.

Sumner, who was in the starting lineup, immediately showed the ball-handling and scoring touch that helped him average 13.7 points and 4.6 assists last season, driving to the basket and sending an underhand shot off the glass for an 11-9 lead with 9:23 left in the first quarter.

While Sumner was introducing himself to the Coliseum fans, Sioux Falls' Mitchell was reintroducing himself after he spent 2012 to 2014 with Fort Wayne, helping them to a championship and winning two league dunk contests as arguably the most exciting player they've had until Lemon started tearing up the G League this season.

Mitchell made 3 of 4 shots for seven points in the first quarter, as Sioux Falls built a 39-25 lead, and he finished off a give-and-go with Jalen Bradley by scooping the ball in for a 44-31 lead with 9:25 left in the second quarter.

The Mad Ants tried to chip away at the deficit and Lemon's steal of Ike Nwamu put him in position for a reverse layup that missed, but DeQuan Jones was there to slam the rebound in, cutting the Skyforce's lead to 53-41 with 6:02 left in the quarter.

Nwamu atoned though; his 3-pointer made it 67-47 with 1:50 remaining in the quarter. The Mad Ants shot 37.8 percent in the first half, well behind the 62.5 percent of the Skyforce, which had a commanding 72-53 lead.

The Mad Ants rallied and got within six, at 103-97, after Stephan Hicks followed a 3-pointer with a thunderous dunk set up by a McKinney Jones pass with 10:41 left in the fourth quarter.

A Uthoff 3-pointer got the Mad Ants within 3 at 110-107 with 8:24 left. Lemon tied it at 112 by driving through a crowd and scoring with a one-handed shot and another Lemon drive gave the Mad Ants a 121-120 lead with 3:50 remaining.

Mitchell came into the night as Sioux Falls' leading scorer with 22 points per game, even though he's been coming off the bench, and he's been deadly as ever in the fourth quarter including scoring 13 of his 16 points in the fourth of their 112-108 victory over Salt Lake City on Wednesday. The Skyforce is 6-1 with him coming off the bench in January and 7-3 overall when he's the sixth man.

He also came in averaging a career-best 7.2 rebounds and had seen a lot of time as the primary ball-handler, leading to his career-best 4.6 assists per game. He's had as many as 33 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists in games this season.

Notes: Former Purdue player A.J. Hammons had 14 points. … The Saint Francis football team was honored for winning its second straight NAIA championship. … The Mad Ants' newest player, Jamil Wilson, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, is expected to arrive in Fort Wayne on Saturday so he could play Monday in Mississauga, Ontario, against Raptors 905.

jcohn@jg.net