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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Christian Watford, of the Mad Ants, drives the ball in closer to the basket with Raptors' Yanick Moreira keeping close in the second quarter of Friday's game at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Jordan Loyd, of the Mad Ants, keeps Raptors' Jarrod Uthoff away from the ball as he drives the ball under the basket in the first quarter of Friday's game at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Jordan Loyd, of the Mad Ants, brings the ball down the court in the first quarter of Friday's game against Raptors 905 at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Stephan Hicks, of the Mad Ants, goes up for two in the second quarter of Friday's game at Memorial Coliseum against Raptors 905.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Georges Niang, with the Mad Ants, keeps a close eye on Raptors' Axel Toupane in the second quarter of Friday's game at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' Trey McKinney Jones gets fouled by Yanick Moreira, of Raptors 905, in the first quarter of Friday's game at  Memorial Coliseum.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' Nick Zeisloft makes a run with the ball in the second quarter of Friday's game at Memorial Coliseum against Raptors 905.

Friday, January 06, 2017 6:42 pm

Mad Ants' comeback falls short

Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette

A chance to get some separation between themselves and Raptors 905 for the Central Division lead went to waste tonight at Memorial Coliseum.

Despite 28 points from Trey McKinney Jones, the Mad Ants lost 114-100 and their lead was trimmed to a half game over Raptors 905. Alex Toupane led the visitors with 23 points.

But the Mad Ants (13-6) did make it interesting with a late comeback from 19 down to six against Raptors 905 (13-7), which has taken 2 of 3 games between the teams this season.

The Mad Ants were down 102-83 with 5:25 left before picking up their defensive intensity; they forced two shot-clock violations in the midst of a 9-0 run that culminated with George Niang going end to end for a hook shot with 3:12 left.

A couple of long 3-pointer by Niang cut Raptors 905’s lead to six at 103-97 with 2:08 left.

Not helping matters was that the Mad Ants’ leading scorer, Alex Poythress (19.1 points per game coming in), was in foul trouble almost the entire game and finished with six points before fouling out with 3:06 left.

The Mad Ants play their next eight games on the road before returning to the Coliseum for a Feb. 2 game against the Erie BayHawks.

Niang, an Indiana Pacers rookie, played his fourth D-League game of the season. He had 23 points, after averaging 16 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3 assists in his first three. With the Pacers, he has played 15 games and averaged only 5.1 minutes.

Travis Leslie, who had appeared in every previous game this season, starting eight times, was out of the lineup because of a hamstring injury. He’s averaged 16.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

The Mad Ants wore special Police/Fire-themed jerseys that were auctioned off to benefit Fort Wayne Police Victim Assistance.

And for Indiana University fans in the building, they got to see former Hoosiers Nick Zeisloft and Christian Watford of Fort Wayne and Will Sheehey of Raptors 905.

The Mad Ants went on a 12-4 run, culminating with a Jordan Loyd pass through the lane to set up Stephan Hicks for a lay-up and a 15-12 lead with 4:13 left in the first quarter.

A Zeisloft 3-pointer – as Raptors 905 was in the midst of a two-minute scoreless drought – put Fort Wayne ahead 36-27. And back-to-back 3-pointers by Loyd and Niang made it 44-31 with 5:10 left in the second quarter.

Paced by Toupane’s 16 first-half points, though, Raptors 905 pulled within one at 53-52 at the break and went up 71-70 with 3:50 left in the third quarter on two Edy Tavares free throws.

Fred VanVleet’s 3-pointer with 31 seconds left in the quarter put Raptors 905 ahead 82-73, as Fort Wayne missed 16 of 23 shots.

Jared Uthoff made it 93-81 with 8:09 left in the fourth on a baseline drive, after wrestling the ball away from Niang on the floor, and that was followed by a Brady Heslip 3-pointer for Raptors 905.

jcohn@jg.net