The Fort Wayne Mad Ants lost against the Grand Rapids Drive tonight, by a final score of 94-80. The game was very close in the first three quarters, but the Drive turned up the intensity in the fourth quarter. The Mad Ants struggled to keep pace with them and eventually the Drive ran up the score. Andre Emmett of the Mad Ants led all scorers with 29 points as well as lead ingthe team with 14 rebounds. C.J. Fair was the team’s second leading scorer with 20 points. As for the Drive, Willie Reed was one of their leading scorers and the leading rebounder with 19 points and 18 rebounds. Kelsey Barlow was the other leading scorer who also had 19 points.
The first quarter started out somewhat sluggish. This game was the Drive’s first since the week-long All-Star break, and they appeared rusty and winded. The Mad Ants took advantage of this by scoring immediately. Emmett and Talton displayed their impeccable chemistry with precision, passing and creating easy shots for each other. Also, the Drive made things even less difficult by turning the ball over 9 times. Rookie first-round pick Bruno Caboclo, who is on assignment from the Toronto Raptors, entered the game and eagerly shot a three pointer, which he made. However, he only played three minutes in the game. The Mad Ants, and Emmett in particular, continued to be aggressive on both ends of the court, disrupting the Drive’s offense and making their baskets count. Emmett scored 10 points alone in the first quarter, helping his team to the early 25-16 lead.
The Drive started to gain their bearings in the second quarter. Willie Reed, a top five prospect in the D-League, began to perform like it. He dominated the boards and scored whenever it was necessary. Kelsey Barlow came off the bench with energy to burn, running through the paint. Barlow and Brandon Fields played well together, with Barlow slamming down alley-oops in transition. Those plays happened more often than they should in a short span of time. The Mad Ants were not defending the fast break effectively. The Drive caught up to make the score 45-41
The third quarter offered much more heated competition. Hasheem Thabeet, the 7 foot 3 center for the Drive, showed much more effort and energy this time around. Whenever Thabeet was in the paint, Emmett, Talton and Fair had to second guess their thoughts on driving into the lane. Fair and Emmett responded to the challenge though, by taking open jump-shots when they had the opportunity. Fair’s range and consistency have become very reliable, and he has developed into a much needed instant offensive catalyst for the Mad Ants. As the game became more physical, tempers flared. Emmett and Barlow were caught hand-fighting after a play, and the referee gave Emmett a technical foul. Later on, Emmett and Thabeet got into a war of words after a possible foul. The score was close at the end of three, with the Mad Ants leading by one, 67-66.
The final quarter was a complete turnaround in terms of intensity. Thabeet blocked 3 shots and had an emphatic dunk to spark the Drive. Reed blocked 2 shots and his offensive post moves seemed to become more fluid. Emmett went back to his old ways of charging the basket, but the rest of the Mad Ants barely contributed. Fair and Talton missed a few shots and the Drive continued to put up points. The lack of transition defense by the Mad Ants continued to give life to the Drive’s athletic play. Near the end of the quarter, Barlow sank two threes in a row, and then made his final three-pointer to put the game out of reach.
The Fort Wayne Mad Ants are now 20-14 on the season and still lead the Central Division. The Grand Rapids Drive are 16-15 and are currently in last place in the Central Division.
By Joshua Hamer