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The Journal Gazette

  • Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Stephan Hicks of the Mad Ants pulls up for a 3-pointer against Bronson Koenig of Grand Rapids at Memorial Coliseum.

Saturday, December 30, 2017 1:00 am

Ants look to buckle down

'It's on all of us,' Hicks says of breaking slump

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Some may look at the Mad Ants' recent woes and say it falls on the leaders, players such as Walt Lemon Jr., Trey McKinney Jones, DeQuan Jones and Stephan Hicks, to get everyone on the same page and fix it.

But with the 11-10 team having lost four straight games and eight of its last nine, the Mad Ants are proclaiming that no one can shirk responsibility heading into today's 7 p.m. game at Memorial Coliseum against the Grand Rapids Drive (11-11).

“For the most part, we're all pretty much vets and even the rookies should feel like vets now, they've played so many games,” Hicks said. “They should know what to expect out there on the court. It's not just on one person; it's on all of us.”

The Mad Ants are coming off Thursday's 111-104 loss to the Erie BayHawks in Pennsylvania, and they have been led this season by Lemon's 22.6 points per game, fifth most in the G League.

The roster has changed much lately thanks to the NBA's Indiana Pacers sending and taking back Alex Poythress, Ike Anigbogu and T.J. Leaf, none of whom are currently on Fort Wayne's roster.

Their absence has opened things up lately for rookies Tra-Deon Hollins and Je'lon Hornbeak, as Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey tries about everything in his arsenal to get the team back to winning.

“It's great that those young guys are getting more minutes, playing the right way,” Hicks said. “It's like I told them at the beginning of the year, once you start getting minutes, then you've got to go out there and produce.”

Hollins has totaled 56 minutes with 10 points and 16 assists over the last three games, which may not sound like much until you consider his season averages are 10.4 minutes, 2.5 points, 2.2 assists. His ability to play more has alleviated some of the pressure from Lemon and McKinney Jones.

Fort Wayne has an 8-4 record at the Coliseum. Grand Rapids, which has won seven of its last 10 games overall, is 4-6 on the road.

Gansey said the biggest thing the Mad Ants need to do is improve defense at key moments.

“It's just buckling down and getting that one stop, understanding what five we do need out there to give us the best chance to get that defensive stop,” he said. “And at the other end, who's going to step up and make a play for us at the offensive end? Who's going to knock down a big shot or who wants the ball in their hands?

“Body language plays a huge role in any sport and you've got to have better body language. With three minutes left in a game, and if we're right there, we've got to lift.”

jcohn@jg.net