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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, July 22, 2018 10:00 pm

Fort Wayne Champs reach TBT final 16

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne Champs, a team made up of mostly former Mad Ants players, took another step toward the $2-million winner-take-all prize in The Basketball Tournament by defeating Illinois BC 84-76 on Sunday at Columbus, Ohio.

With two victories in as many days, the Champs are into the final 16 teams and off to Atlanta, where they will take on the Jimmer Fredette-led Team Fredette on Friday.

“They did a great job of being able to play together and mesh the chemistry,” said Champs coach Tyler Marsh, whose team was paced by Julian Mavunga’s 21 points. “With such a short amount of time, and only five guys at our first practice (Thursday), they did a great job of being unselfish and playing as a team.”

Former Mad Ants player Stephan Hicks had 15 points. Je’lon Hornbeak, his Ants teammate last season, had 11. Anthony Kent added 11, too.

The Champs had a 40-38 halftime lead but then got momentum in the third quarter with a 22-17 run before closing strong by scoring 22 of the final 33 points.

“It feels great,” Hicks said. “I know last year we lost in the second round and were disappointed. It feels good to move on this year and get the opportunity to play in the next round.”

Illinois BC was paced by Brent Arrington’s 15 points.

But the Champs had superior shooting – 52.5 to 39.7 percent – with a roster that includes Tra-Deon Hollins, Travis Leslie, Trey McKinney Jones and Anthony Walker, all of whom have played in the G League for the Mad Ants.

This team made it to the TBT semifinals in 2015.

jcohn@jg.net