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The Journal Gazette

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants' Travis Leslie, left, guards former Fort Wayne player Ramon Harris, now with the Grand Rapids Drive, at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday. 

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Three Mad Ants defenders, Jordan Loyd, Alex Poythress, rear, and Travis Leslie, swarm Chris Anderson of the Grand Rapids Drive as he goes to the basket Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum. 

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants' Alex Poythress hangs on the basket after a dunk at Memorial Coliseum as Ramon Harris, left, and Kevin Murphy, middle, of the Grand Rapids Drive look on Wednesday. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016 6:24 pm

Guard play leads Mad Ants to victory

Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette

The Mad Ants may have been without their leader in the backcourt – former NBA player Julyan Stone – but they still were able to ride their guard play to a 121-106 victory tonight over the Grand Rapids Drive at Memorial Coliseum.

Jordan Loyd had a career-best 27 points and Travis Leslie had 21 for the Mad Ants (12-4).

Grand Rapids (8-10) was paced by Jordan Crawford’s 30 points.

The Mad Ants were without Stone for a second straight game because of a concussion suffered in the 106-97 victory Friday at Newark, Delaware, after which Fort Wayne lost 120-110 at Greensboro, North Carolina, on Monday afternoon.

Stone, who is third in the D-League with an average of 8.7 assists per game, played 47 NBA between 2011 and 2014 with Denver and Toronto.

Coach Steve Gansey utilized his bench tonight like no other game so far this season. Not only was it the season debut of Adam Woodbury, the rookie out of Iowa who aggravated a preexisting back injury during training camp, but rookies E. Victor Nickerson and Nick Zeisloft, along with Christian Watford, got an uncharacteristic amount of playing time.

Leslie did the heavy lifting early for Fort Wayne, scoring 12 of their first 20 points as they took a five-point lead with 3:30 left in the first quarter. Zeisloft made 3 of 4 shots from beyond the arc to help Fort Wayne get to a 33-25 lead with 11:10 left in the second quarter. And Trey McKinney Jones’ 3-pointer with 1:57 left in the quarter made it 56-55.

Leslie posted up former Mad Ants long-range shooter Ramon Harris and then fed Watford for a 3-pointer with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter, as Fort Wayne took an 86-76 lead. The Drive had another player, Crawford, who was with Fort Wayne last season, and he made 11 of 17 shots.

Loyd, the Mad Ants’ rookie out of the University of Indianapolis, had 15 points in the third quarter, as Fort Wayne took a 92-78 lead.

The Mad Ants put the game out of reach on back-to-back 3-pointers by Stephan Hicks and Watford for a 111-93 lead with 5:55 left in the fourth quarter.

McKinney Jones had 18 points. Zeisloft had 17. Hicks had 13. Watford had 11. Woodbury had 3.

Notes: Newly signed D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, the rookie Indianapolis native out of Georgetown, who had played this season for Windy City of the D-League, came on to the court for the Mad Ants with 1:40 left in the game. … The Mad Ants play host to Delaware at 7 p.m. Friday. They will give away “Space Jam” jerseys to the first 500 kids in attendance. And Mr. Belding from “Saved by the Bell” will be in attendance as part of 90s night.

jcohn@jg.net