FORT WAYNE — If basketball is a numbers game, then the Mad Ants provided a few Sunday afternoon for 1,814 of their closest friends in Memorial Coliseum.
There was the number 20, which is how many turnovers the Ants shook out of the visiting Erie Bayhawks like loose change in a 97-90 victory.
There were 13, the number of steals they made, speaking of picking pockets for loose change, and 47, which is how many rebounds they collected, seven more than the visitors.
Then there was this: 1.
Which is the number that’s in the Mad Ants’ win column today, and which looks like a whole lot better than zero.
“I just told the guys that we’re still trying to identify who we are,” Mad Ants coach Conner Henry said. “We’re slowly getting it. And a win helps that.”
Ron Howard, who led the Ants with 23 points, agreed.
“Obviously, it feels good to win, but as long as we can continue to get better, then we’ll be OK,” he said.
The Ants (1-3) led at every stop Sunday, and never trailed after taking an 11-10 lead at the 7:33 mark of the first quarter. And when Will Frisby wheeled inside to plant a short hook 39 seconds into the fourth quarter, the Ants led 75-62 and the Bayhawks looked like nobody’s favorite to make it interesting.
So of course they made it interesting.
After Frisby’s bucket, they scored 12 of the next 14 points to close to within 77-74 at the 7:43 mark, then drew even at 83-83 when Justin Brownlee threw in a running hook with 4:16 to play.
Enter Mr. Dependable, Howard.
The Mad Ant veteran answered with a jumper and a pair of free throws. And, after back-to-back buckets by CJ Leslie and Andre Jones narrowed it to 89-88 with 1:40 to run, Howard drove hard to the iron and muscled in another layup.
A pair of Sadiel Rojas free throws with 23 seconds showing pushed it to 93-88, and the crisis was past.
In addition to Howard, Trey McKinney-Jones added 22 points, plus seven rebounds. Chris Porter added 12 points and six boards and Olek Czyz 11 and six, and Rojas had 13 rebounds, including four off the offensive glass.
“It feels good because I felt like we put in 48 minutes together,” Czyz said. “We knew we were capable of it because we’d seen spurts in the past, but we just hadn’t been able to put together a full masterpiece. Today was a day when we did that.
“Even though they made a run toward the end, we managed to keep it together and play good as a team and come out with a win.”