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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants forward C.J. Fair goes up for two of his nine points in Tuesday's loss to the Westchester Knicks at Memorial Coliseum.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017 1:00 am

Westchester 129, Mad Ants 116

Defensive breakdowns continue to haunt Ants

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

There was some good in the Mad Ants' latest game, a 129-116 loss to the Westchester Knicks on Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum, namely 13-of-25 shooting from 3-point range, 19-of-20 free-throw shooting and 22 points apiece from Walt Lemon Jr. and DeQuan Jones.

But the defense left much to be desired on a night when the Mad Ants never led. They rallied several times – getting within one point at 92-91 when Tra-Deon Hollins stole a Billy Garrett pass, sprinted the length of the court and sent a behind-the-back pass to Stephan Hicks for a dunk – but the Knicks would exploit gaps at the other end of the court.

“We've got to take away tendencies of guys and we've got to pay attention more. We have this thing called 'KYP' – Know Your Personnel – and you've got to know who you're guarding. We're switching a lot and guys have got to know the different tendencies of (opposing) players,” said coach Steve Gansey, whose Mad Ants (11-9) have lost seven of their last eight games.

Gansey is trying everything in his arsenal to combat opponents, including a small, inexperienced third-quarter lineup that consisted of Lemon, Jones and rookies Hollins, Je'lon Hornbeak and Ben Moore.

“We need to turn it around. Our mentality needs to be different. We need to battle for 48 minutes,” Gansey said. “And we need to quit having 'My bads' and 'My faults' and 'We'll get them next times,' because those add up.”

The Mad Ants, who take on the Erie BayHawks at 7 p.m. Thursday in Erie, Pennsylvania, don't have any NBA-contracted players as Alex Poythress, Ike Anigbogu and T.J. Leaf, who have combined to play 16 G League games, are with the Indiana Pacers. Edmond Sumner, a Pacers rookie out of Xavier recovering from knee surgery, has yet to make his professional debut with the Mad Ants.

“Right now it's to a point where everyone's got to look in the mirror and just not accept losing,” Gansey said. “We've had these tough ones. And this was a tough one.”

Westchester (15-8) was paced by Xavier Rathan-Mayes' 33 points, while Trey Burke had 28 points including a key 3-pointer for a 118-107 lead with three minutes left in front of an announced crowd of 1,933.

Paul Watson had 22 points, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range, as the Knicks shot 52.9 percent, made 13 of 24 from beyond the arc and outrebounded the Mad Ants 46-38, including 20 of the game's first 30 rebounds.

Despite making 11 of their first 24 shots, the Mad Ants trailed 32-24 heading into the second quarter. They got within one at 41-40 with 7:13 left, thanks to an 8-0 run that culminated with back-to-back 3-pointers by Trey McKinney Jones, who totaled 19 points, and Hicks, who had 20.

“We just had a lot of mental breakdowns on the defensive end,” Hicks said. “We had a lot of miscommunication on defensive coverages. That's what led to a lot of the easy buckets. Once we get our communication and everybody on the right page, I think we'll be fine.”

Watson's 3-pointer from the corner gave the Knicks a 51-42 lead. He made another 3 for a 60-49 lead.

“We're right there in every game and just need to get over that hump,” Hicks said.

jcohn@jg.net